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Putin Says Iraq Arms Deal Shows Trust in Russian Weaponry

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin said a multi-billion-dollar arms contract with Iraq, making Russia the second-biggest weapons supplier to the Middle Eastern state after the U.S., showed trust in Russian military equipment.

“We are restoring military cooperation,” Putin said today after talks outside Moscow with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “Iraqi specialists know Russian weapons very well, and we will find mutual understanding in this sphere that will increase not only trade volumes but confidence.”

Iraq will purchase more than $4.2 billion of weapons from Russia under contracts signed in recent months, the Russian government said yesterday, in a challenge to the Middle Eastern country’s military ties to the U.S. If fulfilled, the contracts would lead to Russian military advisers and technicians working in Iraq as they did during the Soviet era, according to Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Iraq is buying 30 Russian MI-28 attack helicopters, worth $2 billion, along with 42 Pantsir short-to-medium-range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon systems, worth $2.3 billion, according to Russian state broadcaster RT. The country may also purchase Russian MiG fighter jets as well as armored vehicles, RT said.

The deals are the biggest military contacts since the 2003 U.S.-led overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Since then, the country spent about $300 million on Russian Mi-17 military transport helicopters.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

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