A Russian airplane Saturday became the first foreign flight to land at Baghdad's international airport after the facility was reopened following a 10-year hiatus because of international sanctions, the official INA news agency reported.
The Yak-22 aircraft landed at 6:05 p.m. (1405 GMT) carrying an official delegation headed by Russian Deputy Emergencies Minister Ruslan Tsalikov, which is scheduled to visit the country for several days, INA said.
The head of the emergencies ministry, Sergei Shoygu, had been due to lead the delegation but cancelled his visit because of the situation on board the stricken Russian nuclear submarine Kursk.
He was to held a series of meeting with Iraqi officials to discuss bilateral cooperation.
UN sanctions against trading with Iraq, imposed after the country invaded Kuwait in 1990, are still in place. However, there is a disagreement over how they apply to passenger flights, which are not specifically mentioned in the sanctions resolutions.
Until recently, the practice has been for all those wishing to fly to Iraq to inform the UN sanctions committee.
There is, however, disagreement over whether the authorization of the sanctions committee is actually necessary. The United States and Britain say that it is, while France says that it is not.
For its part, Iraq rejects any interpretation of the UN sanctions as implying an air embargo.
On Friday, Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency said the committee had been notified.
The Saddam International Airport was formally reopened on Thursday, with the landing of an Iraqi domestic flight.
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 authorization.
Around 150 French celebrities are due to make a dramatic call for the end to sanctions by breaking the air embargo over the country with a Paris-Baghdad flight on September 29.
Iraqi planes transporting Muslim pilgrims to Mecca broke the embargo in 1999, but the United Nations soon after authorized the flights -- BAGHDAD (AFP)
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