Thursday, October 04, 2007

China selling weapons to Iraq - US too slow

China makes out again -loans the US money to fight the war, now sells weapons to the Iraqi's.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the delivery of weapons to Iraq more quickly, because the Iraqis have ordered US$100 million (70 million EUR) in military equipment from China.

He agreed that there are concerns that it is harder for the U.S. military in Iraq to track weapons purchased from countries other than America. In many cases, the Iraqis cannot account for weapons, which often end up in the hands of insurgents.

Speaking to reporters, Gates said the issue also came up at his meeting with Chilean Defense Minister Jose Mario Goni just prior to a news conference.

"This is an issue that we have to look into and see what we can do in the United States to be more responsive and be able to react more quickly to the requests of our friends," Gates said. "Unfortunately the (foreign military sales) program was set up in a way that was not intended to provide sort of emergency or short term supplies, as in the case of Iraq and we're trying to figure out how to do that better."

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview that Iraq ordered the Chinese military equipment for its police force in part because the U.S. is not delivering the arms fast enough.

Gates said he is not particularly worried that the Iraqis turned to China to get the equipment, but is more generally concerned about the slow pace of the U.S. process.

He noted that the United States has already delivered about US$600 million (425 million EUR) worth of equipment to the Iraqis, and has another US$2 billion to US$3 billion (1.4 billion EUR to 2.1 billion EUR) on order.

The Defense Department and the agency that handles foreign military sales - the Defense Security Cooperation Agency - have been working for more than a year to try to speed up the process, said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Sherlock Jr., director of operational planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It used to take a year, but now averages about five months from the time they get a precise list of what the Iraqis want to the time it is fielded, he told a Pentagon press conference.

"It depends on what equipment is being requested, it depends on whether it's in production, whether it needs to be placed in production, whether there's another claimant for those pieces of equipment that are in production, or whether that equipment's on the shelf," Sherlock said.

Gates said the U.S. has opened offices in Baghdad for the military sales, so that officials can have day-to-day dialogues with the Iraqis and "get their requirements more quickly and get them processed more quickly."

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