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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Iraq starts Baghdad-Basra flights
An Iraqi Airways plane lands at Basra airport
Officials hope to operate international flights from Basra
The first scheduled passenger flight between the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Basra has taken place.

Some 42 passengers made the 50-minute trip from the Iraqi capital to the southern city, including airways officials and the transport minister.

Iraqi Airways intends to operate four flights a week on the route.

Airline officials are encouraging the public to use the flight, which avoids a six-to-seven hour drive through dangerous parts of the country.

Iraqi Airways flight 015 is the first scheduled passenger service to come into operation between Iraqi cities since the end of the war.

A return flight on the Boeing 727 will cost passengers $150 (83).

Tight security

Basra airport was built in the 1960s and was redeveloped by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s as a gateway to the country's only port.

The airport was officially opened by the transport minister after the plane's arrival.

Officials say security will be tight, with an exclusion zone around the airport to prevent attacks.

After a test flight earlier in the week, the head of Basra's city council said the authorities hope that international commercial flights will resume soon.

"These are courageous efforts," Muhammad Sadoun Janabi said of those involved in the first flight.

"They were able to start these flights in such a short period of time.

"We hope that we will begin flights between us and neighbouring countries, including international flights."

There are also plans to open up another civilian airport in the north of the country.

Royal Jordanian Airlines runs regular flights between the Jordanian capital, Amman, and Baghdad.



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