Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq is reconsidering plans to buy more than $4 billion in arms from Russia, officials said Saturday, throwing the proposed purchase into question just weeks after it was announced.
The turnaround follows the ouster of Russia’s defense minister earlier this week, and allegations by Iraqi lawmakers and local media that the pending deal is tainted by graft.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki traveled to Moscow in October and outlined plans to buy the weapons, including helicopter gunships and air defense missiles.
The deal would have strengthened Russia’s ties to oil-rich Iraq at a time when the ruling regime of longtime Mideast ally Syria risks falling in the country’s civil war.
It now appears unlikely the sale will go through as previously planned.
“When the prime minister returned from his trip to Russia, he started reviewing the deal as a whole,” the prime minister’s spokesman, Ali al-Moussawi, said Saturday. “The deal now is under investigation. So far, nothing has been proven. A new committee has been formed to avoid any suspicions.”
The comments came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin reshuffled the nation’s top military brass following the removal of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov earlier in the week.
Putin tied Serdyukov’s removal to an inquiry into alleged military corruption, though many in Russia believe he was fired because of a brewing battle over the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of defense spending over the coming years.
Officials from Russia’s defense ministry and Rosoboronexport, the country’s arms export company, were not available for comment Saturday.
Iraqi media reports, including one that aired this week on the private al-Sharqiya TV channel, have suggested impropriety such as kickbacks by people involved in brokering the deal.
Lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, who sits on parliament’s security and defense committee and is affiliated with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s political bloc, said al-Maliki expects to negotiate a new deal with Russia that would seek additional equipment and new prices.
“There was clear corruption,” he said.
Iraq’s acting defense minister, Saadoun al-Dulaimi, echoed the suggestion that the government plans to renegotiate the deal, seeking better terms.
At a news conference in Baghdad, he insisted no money has changed hands so far, and said the existing proposal “has become meaningless.”
Russia and the Soviet Union were key suppliers of weapons to Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi dictator who was ousted during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The United States is now the largest supplier of arms to Iraq, which has agreed to buy a range of American-made weapons, including tanks and F-16 fighter jets.
A small number of U.S. military personnel remained in Iraq after last year’s troop withdrawal as an arm of the American embassy. They are responsible for facilitating Iraqi arms purchases and training the Iraqis how to use and maintain the weapons.
Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi in Baghdad and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow contributed reporting.
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NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins
On December 28, 2013, Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins participating in the second of two space walks to replace a degraded pump module on the International Space Station. (NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio is reflected in his helmet!)
The Soyuz TMA-10M
The Soyuz TMA-10M headed towards the International Space Station with crew members from Expedition 37 onboard.
40 years ago the Apollo 8 mission flew up to the moon, orbited it ten times and then returned to Earth. This picture was taken from that flight and shows the Earth as it seemingly rises in similar fashion to a sunrise.
Sunrise from Expedition 36
NASA Flight Engineer Karen L. Nyberg of Expedition 36 took this photo of the sun rising -- a sight they saw nearly 16 times per day due to the speed of the International Space Station's orbit around the earth.
A pair of NanoRacks CubeSats -- nanosattelite spacecrafts carrying experiments -- were launched by Expedition 38.