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Monday, August 1, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Iraq revives, doubles plan to procure U.S. F-16s

BAGHDAD — Iraq, negotiating for an extended U.S. military presence, has again reported plans to purchase the F-16 multi-role fighter.


Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said his government would purchase 36 F-16 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. This marked the first Iraqi announcement on an F-16 procurement since the project was suspended nearly six months ago amid a budget shortfall.

"We have to provide Iraq with airplanes to safeguard its sovereignty," Al Maliki said.

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In a briefing on July 30, Al Maliki said the military planned to revive negotiations for the F-16, Middle East Newsline reported. He said the number of fighters would be doubled from the original request from the United States in 2010.

"A delegation from the Iraq Air Force along with advisers will travel to revive the contract to include a larger number than the contract had agreed before," Al Maliki said. "We will make it 36 instead of 18."

The Iraqis have sought to procure the latest F-16 model, the Block 52+, ordered by Greece and Turkey. The Defense Ministry had allocated $900 million to launch the project, estimated to exceed $3 billion.

Officials said the United States has been urging Iraq to renew negotiations for the F-16. They said Washington has asserted that the F-16 could help prevent an air attack from neighboring states, particularly Iran.

"The government will include in agreements to purchase weapons that there should be trainers to train Iraqi forces to use these weapons," Al Maliki said.

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