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Iraq’s getting all tooled-up

Agence France-Presse |

Iraq and the Czech Republic have made progress in talks on the sale of 28 Czech-made L-159 subsonic fighters to Baghdad, their leaders said in Prague yesterday.

“A certain agreement has been reached,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters after meeting his Czech counterpart Petr Necas in Prague, adding that technical details still needed to be ironed out.

Al-Maliki did not provide further details on the deal, but did say that Iraq also had an offer for U.S.-made F-16 fighters. Necas said the defense ministers of both countries “will now work hard to fine tune the conditions of the transaction.” Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra said talks were focused on 24 one-seat fighters and four two-seaters.

“It is premature to give the value of the deal,” he said before meeting Iraq’s acting Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi. The L-159 fighters, which Prague has been trying to sell for years, are made by Aero Vodochody, the largest Czech aircraft producer controlled by the Czech-Slovak private equity group Penta. Aero is also a sub-contractor for major arms makers including EADS, Saab and Sikorsky, Saab and EADS.

The Iraqi delegation’s visit to Prague comes on the heels of a three-day visit to Moscow, during which Russia announced signing more than $4.2 billion in arms contracts with Iraq. The deal made Russia the violence-torn Middle East nation’s largest weapons supplier after the U.S. Iraq has been scrambling for means to protect its borders ever since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

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