Iraqis take over Basra aiport control from UK forces

Britain has formally handed over control of Basra airport to Iraqi authorities, the Ministry of Defence said.

Iraqis take over Basra aiport control from UK forces

Britain has formally handed over control of Basra airport to Iraqi authorities, the Ministry of Defence said on Friday, a move that paves the way for Britain to withdraw from Iraq.

The airport, on the outskirts of Iraq's second largest city in the south of the country, was seized during the U.S.-led occupation that overthrew Saddam Hussein's government in 2003.

It has since operated as both a military and a civilian airport, but always been under British military control.

Now, following Thursday's transfer of authority, Iraqi civilians will be in overall charge of the installation, overseeing both civilian and military operations.

"From today, they will gain further autonomy, taking over the running of the air traffic control tower... It is clear that Basra International Airport is now an international airport with good potential for future growth," said Major General Andy Salmon, the commander of British troops in Iraq.

The holding of provincial elections, scheduled for later this month, was another of the goals, and the third was the economic regeneration of Basra and its surrounding provinces.

Basra, situated not far from the Shatt al-Arab waterway which leads out into the Gulf, has the potential to become a major regional hub, Iraqi and British business leaders say.

As well as the fact that it sits on vast oil reserves, it has a large pool of skilled labour, good research and education establishments and strong transport links, including the airport, which handles 80 to 130 flights a month.

Reuters
Last Mod: 02 Ocak 2009, 15:37
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