Syria sends supplies to Iraq

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A Syrian aircraft carrying senior government officials and medical supplies landed in Baghdad yesterday, the first such flight from Syria in 18 years. It represents the latest sign of the erosion of 10-year-old United Nations sanctions.

A Syrian aircraft carrying senior government officials and medical supplies landed in Baghdad yesterday, the first such flight from Syria in 18 years. It represents the latest sign of the erosion of 10-year-old United Nations sanctions.

France and Russia, the UN Security Council members most sympathetic to Iraqi positions, have raised the pressure on Britain and America to lift the sanctions, which have failed to oust President Saddam Hussein. Two weeks ago the two states, which maintain that UN resolutions never imposed a flight embargo on Iraq, flew aircraft to Baghdad without authorisation from the UN sanctions committee.

Since then there have been flights from Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, the Emirates and Algeria, all with approval. Egyptian, Lebanese and Turkish groups have announced plans for flights to Baghdad.

The Syrian flight is understood to have been cleared by the UN. Mohammed Mufdhi Sevo, a Syrian cabinet minister, said: "We are Arabs ... we are here to show our support to our brothers in Iraq," as he arrived with doctors, nurses, representatives of unions and the media.

The flight signals the thaw in relations between Iraq and Syria, ruled by rival factions of the nationalist Baath Party. Last week, Syria called for an end to UN sanctions against Iraq, and trade and transport links between the two states have been increased. Relations began improving in 1997 after a 17-year break in diplomatic ties, during which Syria sided with Iran against Iraq in the 1980-88 war and fought with the US-led coalition forces against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War.

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