Iraqi Airways Resumes Domestic Flights
Nov 5, 2000
Iraqi Airways today resumed domestic flights to the towns of Basra and Mosul in defiance of the no-fly zones enforced by U.S. and British warplanes since shortly after the 1991 Gulf War, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.
Two Russian-made military cargo planes flew from Baghdad at 1.00 p.m. with a total of 154 passengers on board, the agency said. An Antonov with 42 passengers flew to Mosul and an Ilyusin with 114 passengers flew to Basra.
Nearly a decade ago, Iraq moved its 15 Boeing airliners to Jordan, Iran and Tunisia to escape bombing during the Gulf War. They remain abroad.
Thousands of people gathered to welcome the planes as they arrived in Basra and Mosul, according to the agency.
In Egypt, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said after meeting President Hosni Mubarak that "these flights will continue despite the threats, since the aim of these flights is to destroy the American-British criminal act by imposing the no-fly zones."
Iraqi Airways, the country's national carrier, charges USD$13 per passenger to Basra, 343 miles south of Baghdad, and USD$11 per passenger to Mosul, 250 miles north of the capital.
"It is the first domestic flight since the vicious 30-state aggression on Iraq in a challenge to the hostile measure imposed by the American and British administrations," INA said.
The "30-state aggression" is the phrase used by the official Iraqi media to refer to the U.S.-led, multinational force that evicted the Iraqi army from Kuwait in the Gulf War.
The U.S. military says Iraqi military planes have frequently violated the zones with quick in-and-out forays since December 1998, when Iraq began challenging the allied planes.
There was no word today whether Iraq gave Britain and the United States advance notice of the domestic flights.
The resumption of domestic flights follows the arrival in Baghdad of dozens of international flights from non-governmental organizations and foreign countries seeking an end to U.N. sanctions imposed to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990.
The U.S. State Department warned Friday that foreign aircraft flying into Iraq should avoid the no-fly zones because of "aggressive Iraqi activities" in these areas.
Both the United States and Britain said last Monday they had no objection to the civilian flights and that the no-fly zones were intended to inhibit military activity.
The northern and southern no-fly zones were imposed by the United States and Britain to protect Shi'ite Muslims in the south and a Kurdish enclave in the north from possible attacks by Baghdad troops.
"Iraq does not recognize the so-called no-fly zones because they are imposed by the American administration and its ally Britain," Khalil said.
Iraq had resumed domestic flights in 1992, a year after they were disrupted by the Gulf War, but suspended them again because of the no-fly zones. Baghdad said at the time that its aircraft needed maintenance.