U.S. Buys Mig-29 Fighters To Prevent Sale To Iran

Stepping up its efforts to keep advanced weaponry away from Iran, the United States has purchased 21 MiG-29 fighter jets from the tiny former Soviet state of Moldova, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced Tuesday.

The aircraft, most of them capable of carrying nuclear weapons, were purchased at an undisclosed price after the Iranian government had put out feelers about buying them from the cash-strapped republic, officials said.

The MiGs “were on their shopping list,” said Cohen. “We are very happy to have them - instead of the Iranians.”

Pentagon officials believe that Tehran is working to develop nuclear capability as well as to increase its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

The MiG fighter jets were partly disassembled in recent weeks and flown by U.S. military cargo planes to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where they will be reassembled and studied, officials said.

The purchase marks a new direction for the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction program, a 3-year-old $380 million effort to move to safety many of the decaying remnants of the Soviet arsenal. Moldova, which is between Romania and Ukraine, signed up for the program in June.

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