Baghdad seeks to buy arms from Europe

LONDON, Oct 1 (KUNA) — The Iraqi government has begun talks with European allies about arms purchases as it rebuilds its military in a drive towards independence from US forces, it was reported here Wednesday.Iraqi representatives have visited UK defence officials in recent months as part of a series of “fact-finding” missions in Europe, according to people close to UK Trade and Investment, the agency charged with attracting investment into Britain, the Financial Times (FT) newspaper said.”It is a concerted effort to see what is available in the marketplace”, said one official familiar with the talks.The Iraqis were interested in a range of equipment, from secure communication systems to border protection technology, the main business daily in Europe said.The talks underscore Iraqs ambition to strengthen the capabilities of its security forces as they increasingly take over operational control from the US military.The US has also pushed to arm Iraq for the same reason.Iraq has spent about three billion dollars (1.7 billion pounds), money from its own resources, mostly on US-made military equipment, including rifles, pistols, ammunition, mortars, various aircraft and a range of transport vehicles, through the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme since January 2007.Some of the larger items include 140 Abrams tanks, made by General Dynamics, six Lockheed Martin military cargo aircraft and 24-Russian-made armed reconnaissance helicopters.US companies have already supplied roughly half the ordered equipment, while the remaining 1.5 billion dollars is under contract.Iraq has about 300 million dollars remaining in its FMS account, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman.Future equipment sales are expected to be financed by Iraqs rising oil revenues, the FT added. (end) he.bz.KUNA 011421 Oct 08NNNN

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