Tuesday, August 2, 2011

U.S., Iraq to Discuss Fighter Jet Deal: Pentagon

WASHINGTON - An Iraqi delegation will visit the United States this month to discuss the purchase of 18 fighter jets, a Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 1.
"Iraq has requested 36 F-16s, (and) a delegation is coming here this month to discuss moving forward on 18 of the jets," Col. David Lapan told reporters.
He added that the two sides were in "just the initial stage" of the purchase and that if a formal agreement were to be reached it would take time to provide the aircraft and train pilots.
"It's a long process. It could be years," he said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said July 30 he had revived talks to purchase 36 U.S. F-16 fighter jets, rather than the originally mooted 18, in a multibillion-dollar deal that has been on the works for several months.
U.S. officials in Iraq - where 47,000 U.S. troops are still stationed - have said Baghdad can provide for its own internal security but does not have the necessary arms to police its air space, territorial waters and borders.
U.S. Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Aug. 1 that Iraq must make a decision quickly over whether it wants any U.S. troops to remain in the country past the end of this year.
A 2008 military pact requires the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011 but could be amended by mutual consent, and proposals for some U.S. trainers to remain have been gaining traction among Iraqi leaders.
The F-16, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is one of the most widely used fighter jets in the world and has been exported to over 20 countries.

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