World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraq will ask Syria-bound Iranian planes passing through its airspace to land for random inspections after Washington said they could be ferrying arms to Damascus, the Iraqi foreign minister said in an interview.
U.S. officials had raised their concerns over the past few days on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York, Hoshiyar Zebari told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper.
"We have informed Mrs Clinton (U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) and U.S. officials that the government plans to bring planes down and conduct random inspections," Zebari said in the interview published on Sunday. He confirmed he was referring to Iranian planes.
Washington had already said it was asking Iraq about Iranian flights suspected of carrying arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Iraq has said it would never allow any arms to pass through its airspace to either side in the conflict.
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim, is close to regional Shi'ite power Iran.
Maliki has opposed demands by Sunni Muslim Arab Gulf nations that Assad step down to end the escalating crisis.
Zebari said the U.S. officials had said any flights carrying weapons to Syrian would break U.N. Security Council resolutions, and demanded Iraq stop them.
Washington had provided no specific intelligence of such flights, he added.
Iranian flights over Iraq had begun in March and stopped after Iraq asked that they be halted, the minister told the newspaper.
"They resumed again towards the end of July and they said these flights contain no weapons or hardware, and that they transport pilgrims, visitors and so on. But to verify their shipments, we will ask these planes to land," he said.
Zebari said Iraq opposed any foreign intervention in Syria and favoured a negotiated solution that would ensure a peaceful transition in Syria, starting with an immediate ceasefire.
He added Iraq had proposed holding another meeting of world powers on Syria as a follow up to the talks held in Geneva in June.
"What we have proposed to (Russian Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov is perhaps there is a need to convene a 'Geneva 2' to activate mechanisms for implementing what has been agreed upon and not to reopen the discussions," he said.
The Geneva meeting agreed a transitional government should be set up in Syria, but the major powers were at odds over what part Assad might play in the process.
Johnson said Thursday that Britain would invoke Article 50, the official procedure for quitting the European Union, within months of the new year.
Media reports said the Pentagon was seeking to send another 500 troops to Iraq ahead of the Mosul offensive
Iraqi FM reiterated his country's rejection of foreign interference in Yemen’s affairs
The soldier said he was caught up in a Boko Haram ambush and colleagues were killed. A bullet hit him in the leg and he hadn't seen combat since.
The vote is the brainchild of Milorad Dodik, nationalist leader of the Bosnian Serb-run entity Republika Srpska (RS).
Abe speaks with Castro brothers about North Korea’s weapons program, Japanese-Cuban trade and debt forgiveness
Arcan Cetin, 20, shot and killed four women, 1 man at Washington state mall
Videos from Charlotte police vague on whether black man killed by police was holding a gun
Use of 'indiscriminate weapons' in recent offensive in Aleppo may amount to war crimes, Secretary-General says
‘Our aim is to reach a political solution before 2016 ends,” Mustafa Akinci says meeting UN chief
China-funded railway set to slash Ethiopia’s export-import costs
More than 15,000 demonstrated against racism and fascism in Helsinki today
Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed his deputy chief of staff, Vyacheslav Volodin, to be chairman of the new State Duma
Angela Merkel, facing backlash over her refugee policy has met with European leaders in Vienna on Saturday to explore new measures to help the continent deal with its influx of refugees
The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen violent clashes this week between security forces and demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Joseph Kabila.