Page last updated at 23:17 GMT, Sunday, 25 April 2010 00:17 UK

Jet in first flight from Baghdad to UK in 20 years

A plane sits on the runway of Baghdad airport
Flight was delayed nearly a year amid security concerns in the EU

The first passenger flight between Iraq and the UK for 20 years has landed at London Gatwick airport.

The Iraqi Airways flight had been due to take off from Baghdad nine days ago, but was grounded by the volcanic ash cloud drifting over Europe.

The flight, nearly a year behind its original schedule, is the first since the UN imposed sanctions after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

It stopped in Malmo, Sweden, for security checks en route to Gatwick.

Flight IA237 touched down at 2308 BST on Sunday having left Baghdad 10 hours earlier.

Thirty foreign and Iraqi passengers were on board, including transport minister Amer Abduljabbar Ismail and Iraqi Airways chief Kifah Hassan.

'Joy and pleasure'

There are expected to be two flights a week between Baghdad and Gatwick, which is just outside London in West Sussex.

Flights from Iraq will go via Malmo, but will make the return non-stop.

Iraqi exiles in London, who until now were forced to take several flights to return home, received the news of the resumption of flights "with joy and pleasure," according to the Iraqi Transport Ministry website.

The flight had been delayed mainly because of security concerns in the UK and other EU countries.

Even then, events kept the plane grounded a little longer.

It should have taken off on 16 April, but Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano had erupted two days earlier, causing thousands of flights across Europe to be cancelled.

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