Sunday, August 10, 2003

To some, it might sound like shipping oil to an OPEC member or ice to Antarctica but, as the Pentagon says there are good reasons why it's planning to send AK-47 firearms to Iraq.

In Iraq, hardly a day goes by that the U.S. military doesn't report finding AK-47s - sometimes just handfuls, sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds. There is no total, but Pentagon officials say the numbers are in the thousands, perhaps the tens of thousands.

Despite this, the Baghdad-based, U.S. run Coalition Provisional Authority has been soliciting bids from arms dealers to supply 34,000 of the Russian-design assault rifles for Iraq's new security forces.

A Pentagon spokesman says the reason for looking to buy new AK-47s is simple - the weapons seized so far in Iraq are not sufficient in either quantity or quality for a new Army or the police. The spokesman says the U.S. military does not want to give Iraqis unserviceable, hand-me-downs. It also doesn't want to force U.S. made assault rifles on Iraq because these would be unfamiliar and could run into servicing and maintenance complications.

One potential beneficiary could be Poland, a close U.S. ally whose troops took part in the war in Iraq. Its arms industry is hoping to win the bid.

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