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Senators question purchase of more AK-47 assault rifles

WASHINGTON -- Two Democratic senators asked the US occupation authority in Iraq yesterday to explain its intended purchase of up to 50,000 AK-47 assault rifles for Iraq security forces, contending the country is already filled with such weapons.

The September solicitation to contractors sought prices for up to 50,000 "brand new, never fired, fixed stock" weapons made in 1987 or later.

"We question whether this is an efficient use of US taxpayer dollars in a country already awash with AK-47s, many of which have been confiscated by coalition forces and are sitting in stockpiles," Senators Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote L. Paul Bremer III, head of the US governing authority.

The senators cited news reports that the captured weapons were in excellent condition and said it would be inexpensive to distribute them to security forces.

Wyden and Dorgan said that last summer, the Coalition Provisional Authority purchased tens of thousands of AK-47 rifles and other weapons from dealers in Jordan and other countries.

The senators asked Bremer how many confiscated rifles are in US custody and whether they are suitable for use by Iraqi security personnel.

They also asked for the identity of contractors awarded orders so far, the cost of the purchases, and the countries of the sellers.

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