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US to Send Kalashnikovs to Iraq - 2003-08-08


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.