Baghdad: The first commercial flight
between Baghdad and London in 20 years has turned into a
nightmare for Iraq after its national airline boss had his
passport seized and a chartered plane was impounded.
The transport ministry in Baghdad today confirmed that
Iraqi Airways chief Kifah Hassan`s travel document was taken
after papers were served by lawyers acting for Kuwait Airways,
which says it is owed USD 1.2 billion.
The dispute dates back to now executed dictator Saddam
Hussein`s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, when, according to the
oil-rich emirate, 10 of its planes were plundered after its
airport had been seized.
"When the airplane arrived at Gatwick (airport) in
London, the lawyer for the Kuwaiti authority tried to seize
it, but he failed, because the airplane belongs to a Swedish
company," said transport ministry spokesman Akil Kawthar.
"But they did not stop, and presented a lawsuit on the
British company that contracts with Iraqi Airways, then got a
decision from the British authorities to prevent the director
general of Iraqi Airways from leaving London.
"They took his passport and all other documents that
he has," said Kawthar.
The plane was subsequently impounded.
Transport Minister Amer Abduljabbar Ismail was also on
Sunday`s commercial flight, the airline`s first since UN
sanctions came into effect after Saddam`s invasion of Kuwait.
Kawthar hit out at Kuwait`s actions which he said had
damaged Iraqi efforts to "reduce the suffering of its people
by providing them with the best possible (air) services," that
would save them time and money.
"The ministry is surprised by this escalating and
provocative behaviour by Kuwait," he said.
"We demand all our Arab brothers and friends put
pressure on Kuwait to stop actions that do not serve our two
peoples, and help them to forget the past and open a new page
in bilateral relations," he added.
No one from Kuwait Airways was immediately available