Global Policy Forum

Bulgarian Politicians Land In Baghdad

November 19, 2000

A group of Bulgarian politicians, doctors and businessmen landed in Baghdad on Saturday in the first direct flight from Sofia to sanctions-bound Iraq in a decade, the official Iraqi news agency INA said. INA said the Bulgarian TU-154 landed at the recently reopened Saddam International Airport in the afternoon, carrying a 97-member delegation.

The delegation includes members of parliament, former Bulgarian ministers, members of political parties, university professors, doctors, business figures and a number of Iraqis resident in Bulgaria. "The motive of the visit is to express solidarity with the Iraqi people and to celebrate with them the end of the illegal air embargo imposed on Iraq," INA quoted Vidanov as saying on arrival.

The delegation was received at the airport by parliament's deputy speaker Hamid Rashid al-Rawi and members of parliament. Civilian air traffic at Baghdad airport ceased when sanctions were imposed on Iraq days after President Saddam Hussein sent his forces into Kuwait in August 1990.

The United States says all flights to Baghdad must have clearance from the UN sanctions committee on Iraq but some countries, led by France and Russia, dispute this interpretation of UN resolutions passed at the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

They say flights carrying humanitarian supplies need only notify the committee that they are going and allow their cargo to be inspected. A number of countries and private groups have sent similar flights to protest against the continuation of sanctions. The flights to Baghdad, carrying medicine, politicians, officials and activists, have been largely symbolic and have sought to lessen Iraq's isolation by exploiting a loophole in the 1990 UN Security Council resolution.

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