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MIDEAST > Iraq stops Syria-bound jet

BAGHDAD / DAMASCUS

In a second time this month, Baghdad stops an Iranian cargo plane heading to Syria, allowing it to leave after ensuring that it is not carrying weapons

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Armed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels allegedly seized two tanks from regime forces in Tel Abyad in this file photo taken near Turkey’s border. Rebels take control of three military posts in Douma amid clashes. AA photo

Armed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels allegedly seized two tanks from regime forces in Tel Abyad in this file photo taken near Turkey’s border. Rebels take control of three military posts in Douma amid clashes. AA photo

Iraq stopped and searched a cargo plane heading from Iran to Syria for weapons for the second time in a month yesterday before allowing the plane to continue amid violent continued clashes between the Syrian army and rebels across Syria despite a plea for a cease-fire.

The move may be aimed at easing U.S. concerns that Iraq has become a route for shipments of Iranian military supplies that might help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad battle militants in his country’s civil war.

“We ordered an Iranian cargo plane travelling to Syria to land at Baghdad International Airport for inspection,” Nasser Bandar, the head of Iraq’s civil aviation authority, told Agence France-Presse. “It was inspected by security forces, but we did not find any banned items, and we allowed it to continue its trip,” Bandar said. Inspectors found medical supplies and humanitarian goods.

Bandar said they had orders to stop and search any suspicious cargo plane. Iraq stopped an Iranian cargo plane for the same reason on Oct. 2, but allowed it to continue to Syria after inspections concluded it was not carrying prohibited items.

‘KRG stops Iranian truck’

Baghdad’s move came after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has reportedly stopped an Iranian truck near Mosul, allegedly upon intelligence from Turkey that it was carrying military equipment to the Syrian regime forces, Turkish daily Akşam reported yesterday. The KRG forces alledgely seized three tones of TNT from the Iranian truck. The KRG has allegedly shared the details of the operation with Ankara. It is claimed the truck’s driver confessed that the TNT was for regime forces.

On Sept. 21, Iraq denied permission for a North Korean aircraft to transit its airspace on its way to Syria over suspicions it would carry arms and advisers there. Turkey also intercepted a Syrian plane on Oct. 10 en route from Moscow to Damascus over suspicions that it was carrying “non-civilian” cargo. On the ground yesterday, rebel forces took control of three military posts in the outer Damascus suburb of Douma amid fierce fighting and killed four soldiers at another checkpoint in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Government warplanes hit targets in three air strikes in the nearby towns of Irbin, Zamalka and Harasta, the group said. Clashes, shelling and car bomb attacks killed 114 people on Oct. 27, the observatory said, including 47 civilians, 36 soldiers and 31 rebels.

Meanwhile, opposition militants allegedly clashed with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in the northern city of Aleppo, leaving 30 dead and around 200 captured, a watchdog said on Oct. 27. The fighting erupted on Oct. 26 in the majority Kurdish neighborhood of Ashrafiyeh, the group said.

October/29/2012

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