Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan left Baghdad for India Sunday aboard an Iraqi Airways plane, defying the UN air embargo in force since 1990, the official INA agency reported.
Ramadan, accompanied by Oil Minister Amer Rashid, is only the second Iraqi leader to take a flight out of the country since the embargo started, following deputy prime minister Tareq Aziz, who traveled by plane to Damascus Saturday on his way to China.
During his stay in India, the Iraqi vice-president is due to brief Indian officials on the "effects of the unjust embargo imposed on the Iraqi people and of the continuing aggression carried out by American and British planes" in the no-fly zones, said INA.
"This visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation between Iraq and India in the political, economic, trade and scientific areas," Ramadan told the agency.
Referring to the restart of Iraqi Airways flights, Ramadan said that the stopping of these flights since 1990 had "no legitimate legal basis," describing the air embargo as "an American lie."
The embargo had been strictly observed until recent months, but started to fall apart as more and more flights arrived in Baghdad with officials, trade delegations and humanitarian missions.
Britain and the US on one side, and the other members of the United Nations Security Council (France, Russia and China) on the other, have upheld different interpretations of the aviation aspect of the embargo.
While London and Washington say it affects all flights, the others have maintained that there is no UN resolution stopping flight to Iraq, so long as they are not carrying out trade or financial activities and that a simple notification to the sanctions committee is enough.
The US and Britain have said that any flight to Iraq must have the express approval of the UN sanctions committee.
The national airline Iraqi Airways opened its offices in Damascus Saturday, after 18 years of closure, ahead of a reopening of air links between the two countries.
A multi-faceted international embargo was placed on Iraq in the wake of its invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 – BAGHDAD (AFP)
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