First Baghdad-London flight in 20 years arrives

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The first commercial flight between Baghdad and London in 20 years has touched down at the British capital's Gatwick airport after being delayed by the Iceland volcano ash cloud, the airport said.

Flight IA237 landed at 11:08 pm (2208 GMT) Sunday after coming via Malmoe in Sweden on the 10-hour trip, according to arrival information on the airport's website.

After the flight departed Iraq, the country's civil aviation director Adnan Blebil told AFP: "I am happy. But if Western companies had been more cooperative, we could have started (flights to the West) several years earlier."

There were 30 foreign and Iraqi passengers on board the flight, including Transport Minister Amer Abduljabbar Ismail and Iraqi Airways chief Kifah Hassan.

"There will be two flights a week now. They will fly via Malmoe on the way out but the return flight will be direct," Blebil said.

The first flight since sanctions imposed by the UN after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait came into effect had been scheduled to depart on April 16.

But Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano erupted two days earlier, spewing out ash that forced air traffic authorities to cancel thousands of flights across Europe.

Much of Europe's airspace only reopened last week.

© 2010 AFP

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