Delivery of F-16 jets to Iraq on track: US official

Delivery of F-16 jets to Iraq on track: US official
Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:37:25

A senior US administration official has said the delivery of F-16 fighters to Iraq is on track for next fall with Iraq recently depositing an installment of roughly $650 million for the jets.

The official said that the issue of the F-16's was not raised during a breakfast on Wednesday with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Vice President Joe Biden.

"That program is generally on track and obviously has bumps in the road as anything as complicated this does, but their pilots are in training, and the program is on track," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.

Iraq last year signed a new contract to buy its second set of 18 F-16 fighters from the United States, part of a deal to purchase 36 of the jets to rebuild its air force.

Washington agreed in August to supply a $2.6 billion integrated air defense system and F-16 fighter jets, with delivery due in autumn 2014.

However, Deputy National Security Adviser Safa al-Sheikh Hussein said Iraq needs them now.

The conflict in Syria has drawn militant groups from across the region and beyond into battle against the Syrian government.

Al-Qaeda's Syrian and Iraqi affiliates merged this year to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks against civilians on both sides of the border.

Concern over the rise of al Qaeda in Syria and the war there is also pushing Iraq and Turkey to repair their strained relations.


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