Russian Plane Carrying Oil Experts Lands in Baghdad : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Russian Plane Carrying Oil Experts Lands in Baghdad

By Waiel Faleh

Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Russian oil experts landed Sunday in Baghdad aboard a flight apparently meant to test a U.N. Security Council that is divided on just what sorts of flights into Iraq are acceptable under sanctions imposed on Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Eleven oil experts, seven crew members and some medicines were aboard the YAK-42 that arrived at Saddam International Airport directly from Moscow, according to Iraqi and Russian media reports. U.N. approval can be secured for humanitarian flights into Iraq, but the U.N. sanctions committee maintains flights of commercial benefit to Iraq violate a U.N. trade embargo.

Neither the Iraqis nor the Russians said whether Sunday's flight had U.N. approval.

Arngolt Bekker, director of Stroytransgaz pipeline company, said the purpose of the trip was to hold talks with Iraqi Oil Ministry officials about boosting cooperation between Russia and Iraq. Bekker was received at the airport by Iraqi deputy Oil Minister Faiz Abdellah Shahin.

According to the official Iraqi News Agency, Bekker also gave another reason. "The trip is an expression of Russia's rejection of the flight ban illegally imposed on Iraq," it quoted him as saying.

Permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, enforcer of sanctions on Iraq, are divided on what sorts of flights are allowed into Iraq. The question has gained importance lately as Russia and Jordan consider resuming flights to Iraq. For the past decade, travelers to Iraq generally have had to fly to Amman, Jordan, then drive 10 to 12 hours to Baghdad.

Russia and France, two of Iraq's strongest allies on the Security Council, say the council never adopted a specific text banning all flights to and from Iraq. The United States and Britain maintain civil flights constitute an economic resource, making their reinstatement a breach of the sanctions.

The Russian airline Aeroflot has been making plans with Iraqi officials to resume civilian passenger flights between Moscow and Baghdad perhaps as soon as October. And on Sunday, a Jordanian Cabinet official said the kingdom also was considering a resumption of flights.

Jordanian Transport Minister Mohammad Kalaldeh said Jordan thus far is only studying the matter and has not gotten as far as considering details.

Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu-Ragheb has said that the United Nations turned down a Jordanian request last month to resume flights to Iraq. He said it has only sanctioned humanitarian flights to transport ailing Iraqis and that Jordan must acquire advance permission for each flight.

U.N. resolutions require the sanctions to remain in place until Baghdad complies with demands to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 17, 2000

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