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In brief: Putin pledges new aircraft for military

MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin promised Saturday to re-equip the Russian air force with hundreds of new aircraft as part of an ambitious military modernization program.

Speaking at an airshow at Zhukovsky just outside Moscow marking the air force’s 100th anniversary, Putin said the military will receive more than 600 new combat planes and 1,000 helicopters by 2020.

Russia’s defense spending has fallen sharply since the 1991 Soviet collapse, leaving the air force to rely on aging Soviet-built planes and depriving pilots of the opportunity of regular training flights.

A recent boom in oil revenues has allowed the Kremlin to launch a costly effort to upgrade military arsenals. Air force chief Gen. Viktor Bondarev said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the military will get 180 new aircraft this year alone.

Russia’s leaders have said they plan to spend a total of about $625 billion on new weapons by 2020.

Qatar OKs loaning Egypt $2 billion

CAIRO – Qatar has granted Egypt a $2 billion loan to help the country’s flagging economy, Egypt’s official news agency said on Saturday.

Egypt’s economy has suffered since the fall of the old regime.

Egypt has asked the International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion aid package, but that hinges on political consensus in Cairo. It also considers a comprehensive economic recovery plan a prerequisite for the aid.


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N. Korea, setting stage for talks, halts nuclear, ICBM tests

UPDATED: 10:03 p.m.

North Korea said Saturday it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site ahead of a new round of negotiations with South Korea and the United States. There was no clear indication in the North’s announcement if it would be willing to deal away its arsenal.