Page last updated at 23:19 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

European flight lands in Baghdad

Nordic Leisure plane at Baghdad International Airport
Nordic Leisure flew about 150 passengers from Copenhagen.

The first commercial flight between Western Europe and Baghdad in at least 17 years has landed in Iraq.

Swedish-based company Nordic Leisure says it expects to fly to the Iraqi capital once a week.

The plane, carrying about 150 passengers - mainly Iraqis - arrived from Denmark.

Air services to Iraq are gradually increasing after UN sanctions were imposed following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

More international arrivals are expected in the next two days, including one from Hong Kong, Iraqi Transport Minister Amer Abduljabbar Ismail told journalists, AFP news agency reported.

Turkish Airlines restored links to Baghdad in October last year, offering three flights a week.

But while few direct flights between Europe and Baghdad are available, a number of airlines have been running services for some time to the northern Iraqi cities of Sulaimaniya and Irbil.

Austrian Airlines started flying to Irbil in February last year and has since increased its service to five flights a week.

Iraqi national carrier Iraqi Airways has said it hopes to start flying routes to Europe in the coming months.

Air France-KLM signed a preliminary accord with Iraq just days ago, setting out plans for Iraqi Airways to fly to European destinations.

Correction 6 January 2008: An earlier version of this story, based on agency reports, wrongly stated that Nordic Leisure was offering the first commercial flight between Europe and Iraq.

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