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Kurdish regional chief says Iraq's PM must not get F-16 jets


08:17, April 24, 2012

BAGHDAD, April 23 (Xinhua) -- The president of Iraq's northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan said that Iraq must not have F- 16 warplanes as long as Nuri al-Maliki is the prime minister of Iraq, as the latter might use them against the Kurdish region, a Kurdish news website reported on Monday.

"I told the U.S. administration that Kurds won't accept handing over F-16 warplanes to Iraq as long as Maliki is in power," Shafaq News quoted Barzani as saying at a news conference on Sunday in his residence near Kurdistan's regional capital of Arbil.

"The F-16 must not reach the hands of this man (Maliki)," Barzani told reporters, referring to that Maliki would use such advanced warplanes against his people in the Kurdish region.

Disagreements between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been high for years over disputed areas that the region wanted to annex from several Iraqi provinces adjacent to the Kurdish enclave.

The Kurds and the Sunni-backed Iraqia political bloc have frequently accused Maliki's Shiite-dominated government of killing the democratic process in the country by Baghdad's bids to gain more power. They also accused Maliki of evading his commitments in implementing the terms of power-sharing deal that he earlier signed with rival political parties.

The deal, also known as Arbil agreement, was brokered in November 2010 in Kurdistan region in northern the country. It paved the way for forming Maliki's current fragile partnership government after Iraqi political rivals ended their differences that lasted eight months following the parliamentary elections on March 7, 2010.

Last September, the government of Iraq made its first payment for 18 Lockheed Martin F-16, as part of 36 warplanes that the country wanted to purchase from the United States to bolster its air force. The aircraft are to be delivered, most likely sometime in 2014 or 2015.


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