Iraq Vows to Destroy No-Fly Zones
Iraq will destroy the no-fly zones imposed by US and British warplanes over most of the country, Foreign Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf vowed after Baghdad launched the first domestic passenger flights in a decade.
"Iraqi domestic flights will continue until the US-British crime of imposing aerial exclusion zones is cancelled out," Sahhaf said overnight Sunday in an interview with Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite television channel.
"We are determined to continue these flights until US-British arrogance is broken," he added during a visit to the Qatari capital Doha.
Iraq sent two ageing Russian-built passenger aircraft through the no-fly zones on Sunday for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War,
Officials at the United Nations have said that domestic flights, suspended since the Gulf War over Kuwait, are legal under UN sanctions.
But US officials have warned of the dangers of flying through the zones set up to protect Kurds in the north and Shias in the south from Saddam Hussein's ruthless regime.
Britain and the United States patrol the zones above the 36th parallel and below the 33rd to keep out Iraqi military planes.
Warplanes flying from Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and carriers in Gulf waters frequently clash with air defenses in Iraq, which refuses to recognize the zones that are not covered by any UN resolution.
The resumption of domestic flights follows the reopening on August 17 of Saddam International airport, which was closed after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Iraq for invading Kuwait.
Almost 50 foreign planes have since landed in Baghdad despite a UN air embargo. Iraq insists the international sanctions regime does not cover passenger flights, while the UN Security Council is divided on the issue – BAGHDAD (AFP)
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