Russian carrier Vnukovo Airlines plans to begin regular passenger flights to Baghdad "by the end of this year," a company spokesman told AFP Thursday.
The flights "will take place twice a week initially. Then they could become more frequent," Alexei Sapkin said.
The airline will also send three humanitarian flights to the Iraqi capital, on October 27, and November 3 and 10, he added.
The Vnukovo spokesman said the company's view was that UN embargo in place since 1990 did not outlaw flights to Iraq if they were not carrying "prohibited items" such as military equipment and goods of military use.
"There is nothing banning commercial flights," he said.
Aeroflot, Russia's largest airline, in early October signed a memorandum of cooperation with a delegation from Iraqi Airways paving the way for a resumption of passenger services.
But Aeroflot has assured that it will not restore air links with Iraq until the UN embargo on Iraq is lifted. The controversial flight embargo against Iraq is increasingly being challenged by countries that do not agree with the United States and Britain on the need to maintain the sanctions.
Humanitarian planes from various Arab countries have landed in Baghdad to test the embargo since September 27, following the example of Russia and France.
The United States and Britain insist that authorisation from the UN sanctions committee is needed to fly to Baghdad. But France, like China and Russia say non-commercial flights do not need to be authorised. – (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)