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Iraq postpones purchase of F-16s

February 15, 2011 (by Asif Shamim) - The Government of Iraq has postponed a purchase of 18 F-16IQ jets worth approximately $1 Billion from United States and diverted the needed funds to feeding the countries poor, according to officials.

A USAF F-16C returns to the fight after receiving fuel on June 10th, 2008 during a mission over Iraq. The aircraft is assigned to Balad AB and is deployed from Hill AFB. [USAF photo by MSgt. Andy Dunaway]

"The F-16 contract has been postponed this year and the money has been diverted toward improving food rations for the poor" said government spokesman Ali Dabbagh.

A new draft of the budget saw the earmarked money being reused to finance rations and social benefits, confirmed Mohammed Khalil, a Kurdish MP who is a member of parliament's finance committee.

Iraq has been in talks with the US government for over a year now in regards to the purchase of the F-16s to protect its airspace after United States Forces depart the country at the end of this year. The new jets would provide Iraq with a more potent air force than it had under Saddam Hussein, when the Iraqi air force mainly consisted of Russian and French fighters.

A spokesman said the US military realizes Iraq has to make tough budget decisions. "Any impact a decision to postpone the purchase of F-16s may have is just one of many factors the Iraqi government will have to weigh in considering its future security agreements," said Colonel Barry Johnson.

Iraq has been rattled and concerned by the recent protests in Tunisia and Egypt, which have resulted in both nation governments being toppled. In a small number of protests across Iraq, demonstrators have vented their anger at their own government, which they say is corrupt, and demanded improved services and more jobs.