View Full Version : Iraq wants fighter Jets

09-03-2009, 03:41 PM

Iraq Wants Fighter Jets Back, Serbia Says

Published: 2 Sep 2009 11:43

BELGRADE - Serbia confirmed Sept. 2 that Iraq was interested in recovering warplanes that Saddam Hussein's regime sent to what was then Yugoslavia for servicing 20 years ago, but said they were not airworthy.

"A certain number of MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft were brought to Zagreb in the late 1980s for maintenance," the defense ministry's press office said in a statement sent to AFP.

During the war in Croatia, which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, most were taken to Serbia "in a useless condition, while one plane in relatively bad condition flew from Zagreb to Belgrade," the statement said.

It added that Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac had told Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about the planes during a recent visit to Baghdad.

"Iraqi authorities have expressed interest in making those aircraft operational, which will be analyzed by the defense ministries of Serbia and Iraq," the statement said.

The ministry neither confirmed nor denied that an Iraqi delegation has already been in Belgrade negotiating the return of the planes, as announced last week in Baghdad by Iraqi defense ministry spokesman General Mohammed al-Askari.

The Soviet-built MiGs "were sent by Saddam's government in 1989 for maintenance and everything was paid for with Iraqi money," Askari said Aug. 29.

He said the planes are important for Iraq as "our air force only possesses helicopters."

The Iraqi official said Baghdad was seeking to recover 19 of the aircraft.

The former Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia had close links with Saddam's regime, which was toppled in 2003 by a U.S.-led invasion, and was a major exporter of arms to Baghdad before breaking up in the 1990s.

In late August, Sutanovac announced a deal under which Serbia would export $100 million of weapons to Iraq.