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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Urges Ukraine to Probe Radar Sale to Baghdad

KIEV -- British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon urged Kiev on Thursday to get to the bottom of U.S. allegations of arms sales to Iraq, hinting Britain could consider taking action against Ukraine.

As Ukraine's foreign minister broke off a trip and flew to New York to rebut U.S. accusations that President Leonid Kuchma approved the sale of an early warning system to Baghdad, Hoon said officials needed to cooperate in investigating the issue.

"I am obviously responsible for, and concerned about, the safety of our air crews operating over the no-fly zones in Iraq, which is why we take this issue so very seriously," Hoon told reporters after meeting Kuchma and his defense minister. "We have had a very constructive discussion about that issue today, and it is something upon which we have to take further steps. ... I want to reflect upon the offer of cooperation that I have been given before any further decisions are taken by the United Kingdom government."

U.S. and British jets police two no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, set up after the 1991 Gulf War.

The European Union said it would also ask Ukraine, which hopes one day to join the bloc, about the allegations but was holding back from following the U.S. lead in suspending aid.

A spokeswoman for Kuchma said he had again denied the charges at the meeting with Hoon.

Earlier this week, Washington stopped more than $50 million in aid to Ukraine over the arms issue. The sale of the Kolchuga -- a radar system that tracks aircraft without giving itself away -- would violate UN sanctions.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko broke off a visit to the Dominican Republic to meet UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Security Council members to rebut the allegations.

A U.S. State Department official said Thursday that Washington may send experts to Ukraine to investigate the alleged sale.

"Unfortunately we do not believe that the government of Ukraine has been candid with us in the past on this issue," the official said. "We are considering the possibility of this type of visit by U.S. experts to Ukraine, but before proceeding, we would want to have confidence that Ukrainian officials are prepared to address this issue in a transparent way and that appropriate understandings about the scope of work and access were in place in order for the effort to be productive."