Baghdad (AP) -
Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press that the Iraqi government would postpone the expected purchase of the F-16 fighter jets and would instead use the money to beef up food rations. The Iraqi government gives food rations to many of its neediest citizens, who complain the rations have gotten smaller.
Al-Dabbagh said an initial partial payment of about $1 billion was to be spent this year on the fighter jets, but did not have an exact figure on the total cost of the deal.
"We need the money badly this year ... to finance other important items," he said. "We thought that we cannot afford to buy the F-16s."
Al-Dabbagh said that
According to al-Dabbagh's Web site, the Iraqi Cabinet had been moving forward with the deal as early as Jan. 26 when it authorized Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is the acting minister of defense, to negotiate with the Americans about making the first payment on the planes.
Al-Dabbagh said the postponement would not affect the departure of American troops scheduled for the end of this year.
An American military spokesman said the
"The purchase of F-16s is one of many budget decisions they must make," said Col. Barry Johnson. "Any impact a decision to postpone the purchase of F-16s may have is just one of many factors the Iraqi government will have to weigh in considering its future security agreements."
Hundreds of Iraqis rallied Monday in central
Despite sitting on some of the world's largest oil reserves, Iraqis endure electricity shortages that make summer almost unbearable and leave them shivering in winter. There are also water shortages, and garbage is often left on the streets. At the same time, Iraqis are infuriated by the high salaries earned by their elected officials, compared with ordinary Iraqis.
"We want reforms to take place," said Hanaa Adwar, an activist from the nonprofit watchdog group, al-Amal. "We have witnessed the popular revolution carried by Tunisian and Egyptian people that led to the toppling of their regime."
Many of the demonstrators carried banners that bore the image of a broken red heart, alluding to the fact that the protest took place on Valentine's Day. They shouted slogans saying
"Government, you should take lessons from
On Sunday, al-Maliki met with government officials to discuss problems facing Iraqis, specifically the electricity shortage and the food rations, and vowed to address the problems.
Associated Press reporters Hamid Ahmed and Saad Abdul-Kadir contributed to this report.