Global Policy Forum

Russian Plane Arrives

New York Times
September 24, 2000

A Russian airliner arrived today in Iraq with a soccer team, musicians, business executives and medical supplies in another challenge to 10-year-old United Nations sanctions that the United States and Britain are finding hard to keep in place.

Russia informed the United Nations sanctions committee of the flight, which carried 143 passengers and five tons of cargo, but it did not seek permission from the committee to send the plane. Senior Iraqi officials, mostly from the Oil Ministry, met the plane. The flight was the latest challenge to the sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Members of the United Nations Security Council are divided over the sanctions, with some doubting their effectiveness.

Russia and France, both permanent members of the Council, maintain that authorization is not required for aid flights. On Friday, France also rejected American and British protests and sent a plane from Paris to Baghdad. Iraqi officials view the flights as a sign that the trade sanctions are eroding. They have so emboldened authorities that Abdulrazzaq al- Hashemi, a senior official welcoming the Russians, declared that his government would turn down future requests to fly to Baghdad if those organizing the flight obtained United Nations permission.

Mr. Hashemi also said the flights indicated that nations are distancing themselves from American and British interpretations of the sanctions. The flight, he said, shows that Washington's and London's attempts to impose their will on others "are not succeeding."

United Nations resolutions require the sanctions to remain in place until Iraq complies with demands to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction. For the past decade, travelers to Iraq generally have flown to Amman, Jordan, and then driven to Baghdad.

The Russian flight today arrived about 45 minutes late. Controllers at the reopened Saddam Hussein International Airport said that Iran had denied permission for the plane to pass over its territory. The reason was not immediately clear; Iraq and Iran fought a war from 1980 to 1988 and relations remain cool. The plane belongs to Vnukovo Airlines of Russia. The Vnukovo representative in Baghdad, Alexei Badikov, expressed hope that regularly scheduled flights would resume within two months.

Most of the passengers were business executives with an eye on lucrative oil and trade deals under the program that the United Nations supervises allowing Iraq to sell oil to meet civilian needs. Members of the Torpedo-ZIL soccer team of Moscow were also aboard; they are to meet an Iraqi team for a match. Medicines, disposable syringes and blood-transfusion kits were among the aid supplies the plane carried, according to Itar-Tass.

Both France and Russia have become impatient with the sanctions. Russia is seeking oil contracts and wants Iraq to pay back $8 billion in Soviet-era debt. France has often spoken out against the impact of sanctions on civilians. China, too, has been sympathetic toward Iraq, leaving the United States and Britain as the only permanent Security Council members trying to ensure that sanctions remain in place.

Russia says the United Nations resolutions do not specifically ban passenger flights to Iraq, and Russia's state-controlled airline Aeroflot is negotiating with Iraq on resuming flights to Baghdad. Jordan is also considering whether to resume passenger service.

More Information on Civilian Flights
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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