Serbia Seals Multimillion Arms Deal With Iraq

Serbia has sealed a deal to sell $235 million of aircraft, weapons and military equipment to Iraq, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

It said the material will include 20 light training aircraft, pistols, assault rifles, mortars, ammunition, explosives and bulletproof vests.

The piston-engined Lasta 95 is a new development by Utva aircraft factory just outside Belgrade, and will enter production thanks to the deal with Iraq.

Serbia's Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac said this is "a deal of the century" for Serbian weapons' factories.

"This is the biggest deal ever for our military industry," Sutanovac told Blic daily.

He said the agreement was signed with Iraq's Defense Ministry, with the approval of the U.S.-led military alliance there.

Sutanovac said that Iraq has made the first downpayment, sealing a deal made during a visit to Belgrade last year by Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obeidi.

Al-Obeidi's visit was the first by a top Iraqi official to Belgrade since the fall of the dictatorial regimes of Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, who had maintained close ties.

Yugoslav construction companies built much of Iraq's military infrastructure, such as air bases and command bunkers, during the 1970s and 80s.