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Cablegate: Serbia Uses Iraqi Migs to Show Itself As a Trusted Partner

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PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHBW #0990 2451120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 021119Z SEP 09 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS BELGRADE 000990

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (P. PETERSON)
NEA/I

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (FORMAT)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV MARR PREL IZ SR
SUBJECT: SERBIA USES IRAQI MIGS TO SHOW ITSELF AS A TRUSTED PARTNER

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Serbian Minister of Defense Dragan Sutanovac has confirmed press
reports that Serbia has six or seven MiG 21's and 10 MiG 23's which Yugoslavia

received in 1989 from the Iraqi Government for refurbishment. According to
Sutanovac, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki went public with the MiG story to
silence domestic criticism for signing a $100 million arms contract with Serbia
in August. The story showed the Serbian public that Sutanovac was looking out

for them in economic hard times. End Summary.

Planes in Boxes
---------------

2. (SBU) On August 30 the New York Times reported that Serbia was in
possession of several MiG jet fighters sent by Iraq for refurbishment in 1989,

which could not be sent back at the time due to sanctions on Iraq.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/world/midd leeast/31iraq.html?_r=1).
Minister of Defense Dragan Sutanovac confirmed the details of the press reports
to us on August 31, clarifying that Serbia had six or seven MiG 21's and 10 MiG
23's that belong to Iraq. He told us that he was informed of the planes about

six months ago and had told the Iraqis about them on his most recent visit to
Baghdad. Sutanovac said the planes, which were moved to Serbia from Croatia
when the Yugoslav National Army withdrew, were in storage disassembled and
crated. (Daily "Vecernje Novosti" reported on September 1 that the planes are

being stored at the Moma Stanojlovic Factory in Batajnica and in a military
warehouse in Pancevo. One MiG 23 was reportedly on display for many years at
the Air Force Museum before being moved to the factory in August.)

Payment Needed for Refurbishment
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) Sutanovac told us that discussions are ongoing with the government of
Iraq regarding payment for refurbishing the planes; he claimed the GOI was
interested in using the planes. While Iraq paid the SFRY for the original
refurbishment many years ago, significant additional work would be needed to
reassemble them and get them in working order again. The original payment was

offset by outstanding GOI debts for Yugoslav construction projects in Iraq,
Sutanovac added.

Source of the News Story
------------------------

4. (SBU) Sutanovac claimed that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki released the
information about the MiGs in Serbia to the press for domestic political
reasons, to counter criticism for having recently signed a $100 million arms
contract with Serbia. According to the Serbian minister, Maliki sought to show
his constituents that Serbia was now a trustworthy partner, not a persecutor of
Muslims. Sutanovac pointed out that Serbia was the only country to have
informed the government of Iraq about wayward military equipment, despite the
fact that several countries -- including, he claimed, Russia and Brazil -- were
in a similar situation.

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The Iraqi MiGs that Serbia has discovered are outdated and would
undoubtedly be costly to restore to working order. In offering to return the
planes to their rightful owners, Serbia appears motivated more by the desire to
be seen as a trustworthy partner than the belief that the planes would be a
valuable asset to the Iraqi military. Minister Sutanovac, a leader in the
Democratic Party, is always conscious of the domestic political impact of any
move - in this case, he is showing the Serbian public that he is doing his best
to drum up business for the Serbian defense industry at every turn. End
Comment.
BRUSH

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