Iraq to up searches of Iran flights to Syria
BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse
US Secretary of State Kerry (R) accuses Iraq for ignoring Iranian flights to Syria. REUTERS photoIraq said on March 30 it will step up searches of Iranian flights via its airspace to Syria, days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry publicly criticized Baghdad for turning a blind eye to them.
But while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s spokesman spoke of newly tightened restrictions on Iranian flights to Syria, the head of Iraq’s civil aviation authority acknowledged that no planes had been searched since October. “Because of a lot of information which referred to transportation of weapons, we have increased the activity of inspections,” al-Maliki’s spokesman Ali Mussawi said.
“We will carry out more random searches, to be assured that there is no weapons transfer.” Asked if the move was in response to Kerry’s comments last weekend during a surprise visit to Baghdad, Mussawi replied: “No one has provided us with evidence - just information.” Kerry had said while in Baghdad that he “made very clear to the prime minister that the over flights from Iran are in fact helping to sustain President (Bashar) al-Assad and his regime.”
Nasser Bandar, the head of Iraq’s civil aviation authority, said that no planes had been searched since October because “we have not seen any suspicious flights since then.” “We will inspect the flights we have suspicions about,” he added. Bandar said for the past several days there had been no cargo flights from Iran bound for Syria, and that air traffic between the two countries had been limited to passenger aircraft, which are not searched.