Speaking at a Baghdad news conference on Tuesday, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Iraq needed to equip the police and army with "new modern weaponry that will enable them to protect the country".

"We have therefore decided to earmark $2.2 billion for this purpose." The sum represents about 11% of the total projected expenditures for 2005 of $19.5 billion.

"This sum will grow gradually. The army will be the lynchpin of the security forces. We have decided to concentrate on modernising its weapons. We've already started to do that."
Allawi said he wanted to equip Iraq with an air force and boost the strength of the military from the current 66,000 personnel to 150,000, about the level of US troops currently in the country.

The interim PM's comment comes as two more members of his Iraqi National Accord party were killed in the last 24 hours. Some 22 of his political supporters have been shot dead in the last two months, according to party official Imad Shibib.