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The Iraqi Defense Ministry said this week that it recently learned that Iraq owns 19 fighter jets, which have been in storage in Serbia since 1989, The New York Times reported.

"Everyone knows how much we need fighter aircraft," a statement issued by the ministry said. "We have reached a tentative agreement with the Serbian side to rehabilitate the aircraft and deliver them to Iraq in the shortest possible time, in recognition of Iraq’s need for such aircraft."

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told the Times the MIG-21 and MIG-23 jet fighters had been sent to Serbia for maintenance and never returned. He noted that the discovery was important because Iraq’s air force at the moment includes primarily helicopters and transport and reconnaissance planes. There are no fighter jets.

The defense ministry said Serbia would make two aircraft available for "immediate use" and the rest would be restored on a rush basis.

The U.S. military recently arranged for Iraq to get a T-6 trainer, which is used to train F-16 pilots.

Lt. Col. Gary Kolb, a spokesman for the Multi-National Transition and Security Command-Iraq, the American military’s training wing, told the paper the addition of the MIG aircraft would not alter the U.S. plans.


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