Iraq to Use Converted Military Planes for Civilian Flights
Technicians have begun working to convert Iraqi military planes into civilian aircraft ahead of resuming international and domestic services, a transport ministry official said in an interview published Thursday.
"Iraq needs civilian aircraft, given the current shortage," the official, who refused to be named, told Al-Rafidain weekly. "Conversion operations began recently," he added.
Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan has said Iraq will soon resume flights both within the country and abroad, in rejection of the air embargo and air exclusion zones enforced by US and British warplanes over the north and south since the end of the 1991 Gulf war.
Saddam International Airport reopened in August and Russian aircraft led the way in a campaign to end the air embargo. Solidarity flights mainly from Arab countries have since become an almost daily affair.
Iraq is looking to buy 20 Airbus aircraft from the European consortium, according to reports in Baghdad. Iraq ordered five A-310 passenger jets in 1989, but their delivery was blocked by the sanctions.
The civil aviation authority has said it is also considering leasing planes.
Iraqi Airways, grounded since 1990, had a fleet of some 30 planes, stranded in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Libya and Tunisia.
Iraq insists the international sanctions regime imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait does not cover passenger flights, while the UN Security Council is divided on the question.
Russian carrier Vnukovo Airlines has announced plans to begin regular twice weekly passenger flights to Baghdad by the end of this year.
The United States and Britain insist that authorization from the UN sanctions committee is needed to fly to Baghdad. But France, like China and Russia say non-commercial flights do not need to be authorized – BAGHDAD (AFP)
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