Iraq's air dream to London turns into a nightmare
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 on Thursday 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 1.2 billion dollars.
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 flight, the first since sanctions imposed by the UN after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait came into effect.
No one from Kuwait Airways was immediately available for comment.
© 2010 AFP