Iraq defense minister accused in arms deal

April 17, 2008 at 10:56 AM

BAGHDAD, April 17 (UPI) -- A spokesman for Iraqi Shiite coalition the United Iraqi Alliance said a committee had evidence Wednesday defense officials engaged in a Serbian arms deal.

Makal al-Saadi with the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition party led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, said an investigatory committee found evidence Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul-Qadir al-Obeidi was behind a deal secretly negotiated between Iraqi and Serbian officials.

The New York Times reported Sunday Iraqi officials negotiated an $833 million arms deal with Serbia. The deal involving 22 high-ranking Iraqi officials went off without the knowledge of U.S. or Iraqi leaders.

"The … committee believes there is a lot of corruption in the (defense) ministry," Saadi told Voices of Iraq.

A statement by the Serbian defense minister, Dragan Sutanovac, refuted the Times allegations, however, saying "we do not produce" the type of weapons involved in the deal.

The Times piece said the deal included helicopters, planes and other equipment that U.S. officials described as "shoddy."

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