Baghdad: Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says Baghdad aims to double the number of F-16 fighters planned to be purchased from the United States.
“A delegation from the Iraqi Air Force along with advisers will travel to revive the contract to include a larger number than the contract had agreed before… We will make it 36 instead of 18,” Maliki said on Saturday.“We have to provide Iraq with airplanes to safeguard its sovereignty,” he added.
Iraq delayed the initial purchase of the jets after putting USD 900 million of allocated funds into its national food program to ease pressure from Iraqis protesting against poor basic services.
Earlier this week, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari announced that his country would sign more contracts with the US, but Iraq is against the presence of US troops in the Middle Eastern country beyond 2011.
According to a security deal between Baghdad and Washington, all US forces should leave war-torn Iraq by December 31, 2011.
The last US combat brigade left the country in August 2010, seven years after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Though combat operations have officially ended, about 50,000 US troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011 to “advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.”