Saturday, August 7, 2010

Serbia has delivered the first three of 20 military training aircraft to Iraq as part of a 100-million-dollar weapons deal between two former allies, the defense ministry said August 6.

Iraq was the largest economic partner of Serbia's defense industry in 2009, the ministry said in a statement after Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac visited Baghdad earlier this week.

The 17 remaining Lasta 95 planes will be delivered by the end of the year, it said.

Serbia and Iraq in 2009 agreed to export weapons worth 100 million dollars to Baghdad.

Six Serbian military factories - employing more than 6,000 workers - are involved.

The defense minister said the Iraqis are so satisfied with the deal that they are looking to involve Serbia with rebuilding an air base, building a military hospital and supplying ammunition of all calibers.

Last year Serbia's defense industry exported goods worth 300 million dollars and concluded new deals totaling some 500 million dollars, with Iraq, Algeria and Egypt.

Before his ouster in 2003, late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a close ally of the communist former Yugoslavia's leader Josip Broz Tito and later of his successor in Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic.

Even after Milosevic was overthrown in 2001, Serbia's new democratic government was suspected of having supplied Saddam's army with weapons despite a United Nations arms embargo, an accusation that Belgrade has persistently denied.

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