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Radio Marti Broadcast Plane Won't Go Away

Commando Solo C-130 Was Slated For Iraq

A USAF C-130 now serving as the broadcast platform for Radio and Television Marti will not be redeployed from southern Florida to Iraq, officials said. President Bush has reportedly put a high value on the Hercules' mission to beam pro-US messages into Cuba that it won't be redeployed until a replacement aircraft can be purchased and equipped.

''The president has made the decision that we would do what we could to break through the information blockade imposed by the Castro regime,'' an unnamed State Department official told Miami's El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald. The statement came on the heels of reports about concerns raised by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) that the Pentagon's C-130 Commando Solo plane could be taken off the Cuba mission and sent to Iraq. ''As far as we know. . . until the permanent platform is available, the C-130 is flying.''

The issue is money -- the $10 million needed to replace the Commando Solo aircraft, said the State Department official. ''No one presumed that the battle for the $10 million was going to be a slam-dunk,'' the official said. "At this point, the administration is working on that issue. I remain confident that we're going to get the money.''

Commando Solo missions -- there have been 39 of them since August, 2004 -- are reportedly deemed by the administration to be vital, since military officials think a moving broadcast platform is harder for the Cuban government to jam.

FMI: www.af.mil

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