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Tue, Jan 29, 2008

President Signs Bill Outlawing Sale Of F-14 Parts

Gov't Hopes To Cut Off Iranian Procurement

Acting on pressure from Congress to take more drastic action to keep leftover F-14 Tomcat parts from falling into enemy hands, on Monday President Bush signed legislation prohibiting the Pentagon from auctioning off those parts.

As ANN reported last year, in January 2007 the Defense Department announced it was suspending the sale of all F-14 parts while the Pentagon reviewed its own security measures. The investigation came after reports surfaced Iran -- the only country still operating F-14s, and now openly hostile to the US -- was able to procure spare parts originally sold through Pentagon surplus auctions.

Despite that ban, an investigation by Government Accountability Office revealed DoD still allowed some 1,400 parts that could be used in the Tomcats -- still in service in Iran -- to be sold in February, though it's not clear whether any of those parts actually made it to the Islamic state.

Iran bought the Tomcats in the 1970s, when the country was a US ally under the Shah's rule. Diplomatic relations fell apart after the Shah's 1979 overthrow, and subsequent hostage crisis. In 2002, Bush proclaimed Iran part of an "axis of evil."

There is evidence other countries, including China, also procured spare parts through the auctions. The legislation signed by the President was first proposed by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, and Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords; two separate versions of the bill were approved by House lawmakers in June of last year.

The Associated Press reports Tomcats aren't the only aircraft Iran is interested in; at least once, spare parts for Chinook twin-rotor helicopters -- also sold through Pentagon auctions -- also made it to Iran, according to law enforcement officials.

While few would complain against stopping the flow of parts to supply a proclaimed hostile regime, museums and historical groups hoping to display -- and even fly -- F-14s feared the ban would also cut off needed parts for their planes, as well. The bill signed Monday allows for US museums to buy F-14s, or parts for them... but nothing deemed militarily sensitive. The jets must also be rendered useless for military purposes.

FMI: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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