A royal family member from the Gulf state of Qatar gave Iraq a Boeing 747 jumbo jet today, calling it an expression of solidarity with President Saddam Hussein and ordinary Iraqis, the Iraqi News Agency said.
It said the airliner, which landed at Saddam International Airport today, was presented by Sheik Hamad bin Ali bin Jabr al-Thani, head of the Gulf Falcon air services company.
“The plane is a modest gift that shows my solidarity with Iraq and its leader,” Thani told reporters at the airport.
“It is a gift that expresses my participation as an Arab citizen in boosting the steadfastness of the Iraqi people,” he said. “I do not represent any state and the gift has no political indications … It reflects my genuine love for Iraq and its leadership.”
He said his company, which makes commercial flights and also leases aircraft and offers air maintenance services, would open an office in Baghdad to organize flights to and from sanctions-bound Iraq.
INA quoted Iraqi Minister of Communications and Transport Ahmed Murtada Ahmed as saying the plane would join the fleet of the Iraqi Airways.
No Fly Zones
Iraq has been under U.N. sanctions for a decade following the crisis over its 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait, including a de facto ban on commercial flights.
Baghdad has been chipping away at the curbs, attracting a growing stream of “humanitarian” flights and agreeing regular charter flights with Russia, but core measures remain in force and only a U.N. Security Council decision can remove them.
Iraqi Airways, whose aircraft have been grounded since 1991 Gulf War, resumed regular domestic flights earlier this month, passing through Western-imposed “no-fly” zones.
The United States and Britain enforce the northern and southern no-fly zones to protect Shi’ite Muslims in the south and a Kurdish enclave in the north from possible attacks by Iraqi troops.
Both Washington and London have said that they had no objection to the civilian flights.
Qatar is a small state in the region but it is seen as a maverick among conservative Gulf Arab states and has moved faster than others in normalizing ties with Iraq following the 1990-91 Gulf crisis.
Qatar also went against the tide when in 1999 it criticized U.S. and British airstrikes on Iraq’s no-fly zones.