Saturday, January 29, 2011

France Offers To Sell Iraq Mirage Fighter Jets

France has proposed to sell 18 Mirage fighters to Iraq, which is already negotiating a deal for U.S. F-16s to protect its skies after American forces pull out at the end of this year, the French ambassador said.

He said France was offering the multi-role planes for $1 billion (733 million euros).

Baghdad has been negotiating to buy 18 U.S.-made F-16s, and the cabinet on Jan. 26 authorized Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to negotiate the terms of the first payment on the contract, a statement said.

Boillon said that, because of the price tag, the Mirage offer would not affect the F-16 deal.

"This [Mirage] sale is in the context of a proposal on a comprehensive military air program that France has submitted to this country," Boillon said.

Iraq's government spokesman said that Baghdad welcomed any offer.

"Iraq needs to build up its Air Force and that needs tens of fighters to protect its sovereignty," Ali-al Dabbagh said.

"Any origin of high quality with good offer will be welcomed taking in consideration that we need to unify the source of arming if they fulfill Iraq's requirements," he said, without disclosing the cost of the F-16 deal.

The Iraqi government "has submitted a letter of request for 18 F-16s and packages composed of spare parts, support equipment, weapons, logistics support and training," said U.S. Army Capt. Dan Churchill, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.

"The delivery and cost of the aircraft will be dependent upon a finalized purchase, which has not yet happened."

In early September, U.S. Army Gen. Michael Barbero, then deputy commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said the absence of a multi-role fighter limited Iraq's air capabilities.

"They will not have the capability to provide air sovereignty, to fully protect the skies over Iraq, because they will lack a multi-role fighter," he said.

Iraq's air force was destroyed during and after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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