Iraq Looking to Lease Planes for Resumption of Flights
Baghdad said Thursday it was considering leasing airplanes with a mind to resuming flights 10 years after they were stopped because of sanctions imposed on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990.
"We have plans to modernize our fleet and lease some planes from several companies to face up to the current lack of aircraft," Ma'amun al-Nasseri, head of Iraq's civil aviation authority, told Alef Ba newspaper.
"We are also looking at the viability of repairing our planes or selling them," Nasseri said, stressing that Iraqi Airways planes needed "extensive and costly maintenance".
Iraqi Airways, grounded since 1990, has been sending pilots and technicians to Malaysia and Jordan to train on planes built by the European consortium Airbus.
Its fleet of some 30 planes, meanwhile, is stranded in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Libya and Tunisia.
Nasseri said he was particularly concerned by the state of four Boeing 747s in Iran which "the Iranian authorities refuse to look at and repair."
Baghdad's Saddam International Airport officially reopened on August 17 with the landing of an Iraqi military transport plane.
A Russian Yak-22 airplane carrying an official delegation was the first international flight to arrive at the airport two days later.
Nasseri said Iraq had already informed the International Association of Air Transport (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that it had reopened its airspace.
Iraq, backed by France, argues that non-commercial passenger flights to and from Iraq are not specifically banned under the decade-old embargo.
Around 150 French celebrities are due to call for the end to sanctions by breaking the air embargo over the country with a Paris-Baghdad flight on September 29th.
In April, an Italian pilot flew a sanctions-busting mercy flight to Iraq in a gesture of solidarity with the Iraqi people.
Several planes have landed in Iraq since 1990, but the Italian flight was the first international one without UN authorization.
Iraqi planes transporting Muslim pilgrims to Mecca broke the embargo in 1999, but the United Nations soon after authorized the flights - BAGHDAD (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)