Iraq vows to step up flights to 'no-fly' zones

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The Independent Online

Iraq vowed yesterday to increase the number of its domestic flights until it breaks the "no-fly" zones in the north and south of the country, patrolled by British and US planes.

Iraq vowed yesterday to increase the number of its domestic flights until it breaks the "no-fly" zones in the north and south of the country, patrolled by British and US planes.

The Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf - speaking on the second consecutive day that Iraq had sent civilian flights to cities in the no-fly zones - told the Qatar News Agency that Iraq had every right to resume the flights, which are not banned by United Nations resolutions.

Iraqi Airways planes, which have been grounded for the past 10 years, had not previously been ready to fly, he said. But "now we have a few planes, and the number will increase until the poisonous American and British arrogance breaks".

In the past few months, Iraq has been testing the resolve of the US and Britain to maintain the strict sanctions regime which has been in force since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq announced last week that civilian flights would resume on Sunday. Iraqi Airways flew to Mosul, in the Kurdish-controlled north, and to Basra, in the Shiite Muslim-dominated south, on Sunday and yesterday from the recently reopened Saddam International airport in Baghdad.

The US and British governments have said they will not interfere with the civilian flights. They have patrolled the northern and southern no-fly zones since 1991 to protect the regions' civilian populations.

Also yesterday, an Iraqi appeared in a Baghdad court charged with killing two UN staff and wounding seven others in the Iraqi capital last June. The man, Fu'ad Hussein Haider, said at the time he was planning to take Food and Agriculture Organisation officials hostage to protest against the UN sanctions.

The trial was adjourned until 20 November after the charges were read.

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