Sanctions-hit Iraq is holding negotiations with a foreign company for the purchase of new civilian passenger aircraft, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
"Negotiations are underway with a company to buy modern planes," Maamun Mohieddin Nasseri, director general of Iraq's civil aviation department, told the weekly Al-Rafidain. Without naming the firm, he said national carrier Iraqi Airways would send a group of pilots and co-pilots to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia soon for training on the aircraft.
Dozens of Iraqi pilots and technicians have already undergone training in Malaysia and Jordan on planes built by the European consortium Airbus, another Baghdad newspaper reported in June. Airbus has pledged to deliver five planes ordered by Iraq in 1989 once sanctions are lifted, according to Baghdad.
A delegation from Dubai's civil aviation department signed several contracts with Baghdad in November 1999 for converting the airport in the southern Iraqi city of Basra into an international terminal and training Iraqi technicians in Dubai.
And Iraq's transport ministry said last month that repairs were currently underway at Baghdad's Saddam International Airport to modernise it to handle the eventual resumption of air traffic. Iraqi Airways has been grounded since sanctions were imposed on Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
But Russia is studying the possibility of resuming flights to Iraq "by the end of the year" in exchange for a commitment from Baghdad to implement UN Security Council resolutions, according to the Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.
Iraq, backed by France, argues that non-commercial passenger flights to and from Iraq are not specifically banned under the decade-old embargo. Iraqi Airways planes, meanwhile, are stranded in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Libya and Tunisia.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )