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Iraq, Russia ink weapons deal

From Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
A U.S. Army soldier walks past weapons that arrived in the last U.S. military convoy to depart Iraq on December 18 in Kuwait.
A U.S. Army soldier walks past weapons that arrived in the last U.S. military convoy to depart Iraq on December 18 in Kuwait.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Russia has agreed to sell $4.2 billion in arms to Iraq
  • U.S. Embassy: Iraq prefers "United States as its partner of choice for arms"
  • Analyst: The deal with Russia is a sign that Iraq is looking beyond Washington for weapons

Baghdad (CNN) -- Two days after Russian and Iraqi officials announced a major weapons deal, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad stressed that the United States also has billions of dollars worth of military equipment deals with Iraq.

"We would note that the government of Iraq has consistently indicated a strong preference for the United States as its partner of choice for arms purposes," a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said in a written response to questions from CNN.

On Tuesday, the Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported a $4.2 billion deal to deliver attack helicopters and mobile air-defense systems to Iraq.

One analyst told the news agency the deal was a clear sign that Iraq was starting to look beyond Washington for weapons.

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"It's clear that America's influence on Iraq has been excessive," Ruslan Pukhov of the Center for Analysis of Strategy and Technologies told RIA Novosti. "The Shiite government of this country is starting to conduct itself more independently of Washington, and more looking toward Iran."

Iraq has initiated 467 foreign military sales with the United States worth more than $12.3 billion, the U.S. Embassy said Thursday.

But some Iraqi officials have complained that weapons deals with the United States are progressing slowly.

"We fully support efforts to purchase equipment to meet its legitimate defense needs and we are committed to working with them to fulfill these military equipment orders as quickly as possible," the embassy said.

Word of the deals with Russia comes several weeks after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden asked Iraq for help in stopping weapons from reaching Syria.

U.S. lawmakers travel to Baghdad as Iraq denies role in Syrian conflict

Biden stressed to the Iraqi prime minister "the need to prevent any state from taking advantage of Iraq's territory or airspace to send weapons to Syria."

Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "expressed the Iraqi government's discomfort with some informal U.S parties of stirring suspicions about Iraq's position toward Syrian crisis," and that Iraq has held a "firm position in rejecting any weapon supplies or violent activity over Iraq's territories or its air spaces," according to a release from his office.

Opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule are concerned about the shuttling of arms to his government by entities such as Iran. Iraq borders Syria and Iran.

Read more: Who is arming Syria?

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