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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Purchases MiG-29s To Keep Them From Iran

WASHINGTON -- The United States bought 21 advanced MiG-29 warplanes, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, from the former Soviet republic of Moldova in order to keep them out of Iran's military arsenal, Defense Secretary William Cohen disclosed Tuesday.

"We are very happy to have them, instead of the Iranians," Cohen said at a Defense Department briefing.

Cohen said the Iranians had inquired about purchasing the aircraft from Moldova, a former Soviet republic nestled between Ukraine and Romania. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many cash-strapped former members of the Warsaw Pact have been offering their weaponry for sale.

Cohen said "rogue nations" were interested in the aircraft, including Iran.

"These MiG aircraft were on their shopping list," he said, noting in particular that Washington believes Iran is seeking a means of developing nuclear weapons and a delivery system for them.

The planes were taken apart and flown by huge C-17 transports to the Air Force's Wright Patterson Air Base in Ohio over the past several weeks, the secretary said.

He declined to cite the cost of the purchase, saying that was part of the agreement. He praised Moldovan officials for their "visionary effort," and noted that the country would be aided with excess U.S. military supplies and items for humanitarian assistance programs.

Cohen did say that the cost was "quite reasonable."

He also lauded Congress for assisting the effort, sponsored under a program begun by Senator Richard Lugar, and former Georiga senator Sam Nunn, to help reduce the threat from the Warsaw Pact's nuclear arsenal.