Russia will begin supplying weapons to Iraq in spring - Iraqi Foreign Minister

The first supplies of Russian weapons to Iraq will start before the beginning of the summer, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview with Voice of Russia radio.

The supplies were initially expected to resume in early 2013, but there was a delay.

"There was a delay because there needs to be pre-payment and guarantees of full payment in order for the supplies to begin. And the Iraqi parliament has still not approved the budget for 2013. A lot of money is written in the budget for these contracts," Zebari said.

The value of the contract is much lower than $4 billion, on which the media earlier reported, Zebari said.

"I can't give you the figure," the minister said. "It's a state secret. However, I assure you that the value of the weapons contracts between Iraq and Russia is much lower than the stated amount. The said amounts are vastly exaggerated. Such issues should not be resolved through the press. The media are saying that there may be a corruption component in it," the minister said.

"During our prime minister's visit to Moscow last fall, the press reported figures regarding the value of the contracts that had little relation to reality. The press reports mentioned contracts that have not even been signed," Zebari said.

Zebari also said he is hoping the next meeting of the intergovernmental Russian-Iraqi commission on trade, economic, and technological cooperation will be fruitful.

The minister said the meeting is expected to be held in Baghdad in the first quarter of 2013.

"The previous meetings proved that this commission is useful. It helps expand cooperation between Russia and Iraq. It's oil, weapons, and other spheres. The upcoming meeting will address ways of promoting the operation of Russian companies and investment from Russia in Iraq," Zebari said.

Zebari earlier told Interfax his country is not giving up the weapons contracts worth over $4 billion that were signed with Russia in 2012.

The weapons contracts between Russia and Iraq have still not taken effect due to the financial difficulties experienced by Iraq, Zebari said.

It was reported earlier that Russia and Iraq had signed arms supply contracts worth $4.2 billion. However, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said in an interview with Interfax in October 2012 that "this amount is by far overstated."

"Of course, the amount may exceed $4 billion for the total amount of purchases, which may probably last several years. However, if we speak about the initial payment, the amount is by far overstated," the prime minister said.

It was reported in early November 2012, Iraq had annulled the deal with Russia over suspicions of corruption by Russia.

However, Iraqi Defense Minister Sadun Farhan al-Dulaymi later denied the reports about the annulment of the contract for the supply of Russian weapons. He also denied the allegations of corruption in the deal, saying the Iraqi government had just delayed submitting a report on the deal to the country\s anti-corruption committee.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali ad-Dabbah said later that the Iraqi National Security Council had decided to fully reconsider the deal's terms and conditions, and a new committee was formed for that purpose.

The initial contract envisioned the sale to Iraq of 30 Mi-28N attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air and anti-aircraft artillery systems.

The successful closure of the deal could make Russia the second largest weapons supplier to Iraq after the United States.

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