Russian Jet Defies UN Sanctions to Land at Baghdad Airport
A Russian aircraft defying UN sanctions flew into Baghdad's international airport on Sunday carrying senior oil executives.
The Iraqi News Agency (INA) said 11 senior oil officials were aboard, led by the president of Russia's Stroitransgaz company, Arngolt Bekker.
"The flight shows that Russia rejects the air embargo imposed on Iraq without legal basis," Bekker told INA. It was not clear if the plane had notified the UN sanctions committee about the flight.
"The plane came directly from Moscow to Baghdad," the agency added but gave no details about the type of aircraft or the airline.
A Russian passenger jet became the first foreign flight to land at the capital's airport two days after it was reopened on August 17, following a 10-year hiatus because of the embargo.
It had brought an official delegation headed by Russian Deputy Emergencies Minister Ruslan Tsalikov.
Tsalikov said Moscow had "informed" the UN sanctions committee of the "flight, which has noble goals," but that it had not "sought its authorization."
On September 14, Russia's largest airline, Aeroflot, announced its intention to resume flights to Baghdad and reopen its offices in Baghdad.
"Aeroflot will reopen its bureau in four to six weeks and will resume flights as soon as the United Nations embargo on Iraq is lifted," said Vyacheslav Kovalchuk, a company official.
Aeroflot also said a 70-member Iraqi delegation of civil aviation heads and representatives from Iraqi Airways, would be in Moscow September 24 to discuss the resumption of passenger flights to Baghdad.
UN sanctions against trading with Iraq, imposed after the country invaded Kuwait in 1990, are still in place.
However, there is disagreement over how they apply to passenger flights, which are not specifically mentioned in the sanctions resolutions.
The United States and Britain say that the authorization of the sanctions committee is required, while France says that it is not.
Iraq rejects any intepretation of the UN sanctions as implying an air embargo.
Numerous flights have arrived in Iraq since the sanctions were imposed, but these have almost entirely been humanitarian flights authorized by the UN or UN aircraft.
In April, an Italian pilot brought a mercy flight to Iraq with two other Italians and a French priest in a gesture of solidarity with the Iraqi people, becoming the first to land without UN authorisation.
Iraqi planes transporting Muslim pilgrims to Mecca broke the embargo in 1999, but the United Nations soon after authorized such flights -- BAGHDAD (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)