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Tunisian Plane Lands in Iraq

October 5, 2000

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Tunisia flew a plane of doctors, humanitarian aid and a soccer team to Iraq on Wednesday, showing its opposition to U.N. sanctions against the Mideast nation.

The plane had received authorization from the U.N. sanctions committee, but the leader of the 70-person Tunisian delegation, Saleem Shinoub, said its aim was to show that Tunisia’s government and people stood firmly behind the Iraqi struggle to have the embargo lifted.

The deputy head of Iraq’s National Olympic Committee, Aseel Tabra, met the Tunisians at Baghdad airport. The visitors included soccer players expected to play a match against an Iraqi team.

Also Wednesday, Turkey authorized a plane of medical supplies to fly to Baghdad for the first time, the foreign ministry announced. No schedule was announced and it was unclear if Turkey planned to seek approval from the sanctions committee.

Tunisia’s flight is the fourth by an Arab state since France and Russia revived humanitarian flights to Iraq nearly two weeks ago. Paris and Moscow merely notified the sanctions committee of their flights and did not wait for approval.

The United States criticized France and Russia, describing the flights as a ``blatant violation″ of the U.N. embargo on Iraq.

The subsequent planes from Jordan, Yemen and Morocco obtained U.N. permission.

But one of the organizers of an Egyptian flight, Seif Allah Imam, said Wednesday that their plane would fly to Baghdad after notifying the U.N. committee but without waiting for a reply.

Iraq has welcomed such flights as a sign that sanctions are collapsing.

The embargo, imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, can be lifted only after Iraq proves that it has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad says it has done so, but it refuses to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors.

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