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Iraq PM must not obtain F-16s: Kurdistan chief

24 April, 2012

ARBIL: Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan, said he opposes the sale of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Nuri al-Maliki is premier, as he fears they would be used against the region.

The United States has agreed to sell 36 F-16 jets to Baghdad in a multi-billion-dollar deal aimed at increasing the capabilities of Iraq's fledgling air force, a weak point in its national defences.

"The F-16 must not reach the hand of this man," Barzani told reporters at his residence near the Kurdistan region's capital Arbil on Sunday, referring to Maliki. "We must either prevent him from having these weapons, or if he has them, he should not stay in his position," Barzani said. Barzani alleged that Maliki had discussed using F-16s against Kurdistan during a meeting with military officers.

"During a military meeting, they talked about problems between Baghdad and Arbil," Barzani said. "They told him, 'Sir, just give us the authority, and we would kick them out of Arbil,'" Barzani said. "And (Maliki) answered: 'Wait until the arrival of the F-16.'"

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