United Nations sanctions on Iraq do not ban passenger flights to the country, the Russian deputy ambassador to the UN said, regarding Aeroflot's plan to resume flying to Baghdad.
"The UN Security Council resolution bans the transfer of cargo not passengers," Gennady Tatilov told the ITAR-TASS news agency late Thursday.
"Aeroflot's plans are not aimed at undermining the sanctions," he added.
Russia's largest airline announced this week the imminent arrival of a high-ranking Iraqi aviation delegation, which plans to meet with Aeroflot officials.
It also reported it planned to reopen the Baghdad office in four to six weeks and to resume flights as soon as the embargo was dropped.
A company official stressed though that that there were conflicting interpretations of whether passenger flights were covered by the sanctions.
The United States and Britain maintain that the UN resolutions, enforced in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, include an air embargo while France says nothing bans the transport of passengers to Iraq as long as they are not engaged in economic or financial transactions.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said late Thursday that Washington opposed Aeroflot's plans and that she would raise the issue with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Meanwhile, company heads from rival Vnukovo Airlines, which is also vying for the profitable Iraqi aviation market, are due to meet Iraqi leaders September 23 to discuss resuming air links with Moscow.
"We will be making our seventh humanitarian flight to Baghdad, carrying medicine to the war-ravaged country. The flight will also carry Vnukovo company officials," spokesman Alexei Sapkin told ITAR-TASS.
Separately, an Iraqi military representative cited by ITAR-TASS said US and British aircraft bombed southern Iraq Thursday, hitting several civilian areas.
There are regular clashes between Iraqi forces and US and British warplanes enforcing air exclusion zones in the north and south of the country.
Moscow regularly denounces the air raids saying they have killed civilians and damaged food depots.
Russia has repeatedly called for the lifting of economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime in the hope of recovering huge debts estimated at several billion dollars which Baghdad contracted with the Soviet Union -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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