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Moldova leaders rip sale of MiG fighters to U.S.

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Lawmakers in the former Soviet republic of Moldova accused the government Wednesday of breaking the law by selling 21 MiG-29 warplanes to the United States.

"It is a dubious deal. The government broke the law and misled the United States," deputy Nicolae Andronic said. "I doubt the U.S. Congress would accept such behavior on the president's part."The United States said last week it had bought the Soviet-built MiGs to keep them out of the hands of "rogue states, including Iran." It said 14 of the aircraft were modified to launch nuclear missiles.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev denied that charge. He said, "The report that the MiG-29C carries apparatus that the plane could use to carry nuclear weapons is a clear lie."

The Pentagon refused to give a price tag for the planes, but Moldovan Finance Minister Valeriu Chitan has said Washington paid about $40 million in cash.

A member of Moldova's parliamentary committee on defense said privately an additional $40 million in ammunition and surplus U.S. military hardware would be provided as part of the package.

Andronic said the government broke the privatization law, which bars sales of ministry of defense property without parliamentary ap-proval.

But the deputy chairman of the Moldovan parliament, Andrei Dia-conu, said the 1997-1998 privatization law only came into force in September, while the MiG deal had been signed in July. "Anyway, we will discuss the issue in parliament," he said.