Yemen to Follow in Jordan’s Footsteps, Send a Flight to Baghdad
Yemen is reportedly planning a flight to Baghdad Friday, with some 100 passengers, including government representatives, a Yemeni official told AFP Wednesday.
"A Yemeni plane should leave Sanaa for Baghdad Friday with 100 people on board to offer humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, a plane carrying an official Jordanian delegation landed in Baghdad, becoming the first Arab flight to sanctions-hit Iraq in defiance of the 10-year UN embargo and US criticism.
The Royal Jordanian Airbus 320 landed at 7:06 p.m. (1506 GMT) at Saddam International Airport after an 80-minute flight from Amman, an AFP correspondent at the scene reported.
The Jordanian delegation was led by Health Minister Tareq Suheimat, along with the ministers of rural affairs and social development, Abdel Rahim Akur and Tamam al-Ghul.
More than a dozen parliamentarians including physicians, athletes and other public figures, were also aboard the flight.
"We are lucky to be among our own in Iraq," Suheimat told AFP on arrival. "We beg God for the lifting of the embargo on Iraq."
He did not rule out further Jordanian initiatives to achieve the embargo's lifting, saying that "this is the first step which will be followed by others."
Suheimat's Iraqi counterpart Umid Medhat Mubarak "congratulated any initiative aimed at putting an end to the sanctions and to the US-British aggression."
Jordan's ambassador to Baghdad, Hamud al-Qatarna, said he hoped "other Arab countries would undertake similar initiatives", underlining the "good relations" between Jordan and Iraq.
Qatarna told AFP he hoped trade with Iraq within the UN-supervised oil-for-food programmed would reach up to one billion dollars and trade within the special bilateral trade protocol would double to 600 million dollars.
The ambassador said the plane, which was carrying medical equipment and medicines, would leave Thursday with the delegation.
Acting Information Minister Mahmud Kayed told AFP in Amman that Jordan notified the United Nations of the flight but received no response from the UN committee overseeing sanctions against Iraq.
Suheimat told AFP before leaving he hoped other Arab nations will follow Jordan's initiative, which he said was aimed mostly at assessing the health needs of Iraq. The plane is carrying medicine and medical supplies.
"We are taking off from Amman but we hope the flight will take on Arab dimensions," he said.
The controversial flight embargo against Iraq is increasingly being challenged by countries that disagree with the United States and Britain on the need to maintain the sanctions.
France, Russia and China insist that no UN resolution bans non-commercial passenger flights to Iraq, but Washington and London say every flight to Iraq needs authorization.
The official INA news agency reported Wednesday that two planes from Iceland and Russia were expected to land in Baghdad within 48 hours.
A second French flight plans to fly from Paris to Baghdad on Friday with about 100 passengers, including several well-known personalities.
The first flight between the two cities in a decade landed in Baghdad last Friday carrying 75 passengers, provoking an angry reaction from the United States.
Washington accused Paris of violating UN sanctions imposed on Baghdad after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in 1990, triggering the Gulf War of January-February 1991.
Russia last weekend also flew a plane into Baghdad, while India has said it is planning to send one of its own -- (AFP)
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