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The BBC's Roger Hardy
Western policy on Iraq is less effective than at any time in the last decade
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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 13:30 GMT
Iraq vows to destroy no-fly zones
Iraqi passengers disembark in Basra
Iraq Airways flew two planes to Basra (above) and Mosul on Sunday
Iraq has vowed to end the air traffic exclusion zones imposed by the UK and the United States over most of the country, a day after it launched its first domestic flights in nearly a decade.

Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf said Iraq would increase domestic passenger flights until the no-fly zones in the north and south - which are not covered by any United Nations resolution - were destroyed.

Iraqi domestic flights will continue until the US-British crime of imposing air exclusion zones is cancelled out

Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf
"We are determined to continue these flights until US-British arrogance is broken," he said during a visit to Qatar.

His comments follow the resumption of domestic flights by Iraqi Airways for the first time in nearly 10 years.

On Sunday, the company, whose planes have been grounded since the 1991 Gulf War, flew two planes to the southern city of Basra and the northern city of Mosul.

Iraq map
The flights were not challenged by the British or US aircraft patrolling the zones, which are intended to prevent attacks on Kurds in the north and Shi'a Muslims in the south.

US and UK warplanes - flying from Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and aircraft carriers in Gulf waters - frequently clash with air defences in Iraq, which refuses to recognise the zones.

Last week, Washington and London said they had no objection to Iraq's resuming domestic flights, but wanted advance warnings of flight plans and schedules.

Sanctions under pressure

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says the latest action by Iraq is part of a campaign designed to free the country from a decade of UN sanctions.

UAE Finance minsiter in Baghdad
Even the Gulf states have joined the Baghdad caravan
In August the Iraqi authorities reopened the airport near Baghdad, which has since welcomed a stream of international flights organised by countries and organisations to campaign against the sanctions imposed on Iraq.

The flights have been labelled humanitarian missions in order to comply with UN sanctions on commercial flights into and out of Iraq.

Most of Iraqi Airways' regular fleet is stranded abroad, with about 30 planes scattered in Jordan, Libya and Tunisia, as well in Iraq itself.

Iraq wants to buy 20 Airbus planes from the European consortium. It ordered five A-310 passenger jets in 1989, but their delivery has been blocked by UN sanctions.

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See also:

18 Aug 00 | Middle East
UN panel: 'Iraq sanctions must go'
17 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iraq re-opens airport despite sanctions
06 Nov 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Saddam steps up defiance
05 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iraqi Airways back in business
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