March 9, 2015 / 4:41 PM / 4 years ago

Czech government approves sale of fighter jets to Iraq

Czech Republic's Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky speaks during an interview with Reuters in Prague May 9, 2014. REUTERS/David W Cerny

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech government has approved a sale of 15 subsonic fighter planes to Iraq, the defense minister said on Monday, following the failure of a previous attempt to offload surplus stock to Baghdad.

The Czech military has a surplus of the L-159 fighters, made by Czech firm Aero Vodochody and used as training or light combat aircraft, and has been looking for a buyer.

“Let’s believe ... we can get rid of all the surplus planes in two to three years,” Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky told journalists after a regular cabinet meeting.

Last July the Czechs signed a contract to sell 14 L-159 planes to U.S. company Draken International.

Stropnicky said his ministry would receive 750 million crowns ($29.89 million) for the Iraqi sale. Four of the planes are currently being used by the Czech air force, while the remaining 11 are stored by the plane maker.

The producer Aero negotiated the plan to sell the planes to Iraq last April and will act as an intermediary in the transaction.

The Czechs have been trying to sell the planes to Iraq for years. A previous attempt to sell Iraq 28 of the aircraft fell through in 2013 when Baghdad agreed to buy South Korea’s FA-50 planes instead.

The planes would strengthen the air power of the Iraqi government, which is battling Islamic State insurgents, and would also showcase the Czech arms’ producer, which wants to expand its exports.

The contract with Iraq is subject to approval by countries whose firms supplied parts used in the L-159, including the United States and Italy.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Gareth Jones

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