Foreigners’ Flights Delayed in Baghdad With PM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ An Iraqi Airways jet scheduled to fly at least four ailing Americans and 146 U.S. and British women and children out of Iraq and Kuwait was delayed in Baghdad today, sources in the Iraqi capital said.
A second jetliner also sat on the Baghdad runway, the official Iraqi News Agency reported. No reason was provided for the delay.
The news agency, quoting an unidentified source at the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and Information, said British and U.S. authorities had agreed to a request from Iraq for the aircraft transporting the women and children to use landing facilities and refuel.
But Iraqi officials were awaiting a response to a similar request made to French officials for the use of landing facilities in Paris, the news agency said. In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said the plane was to stop at Orly Airport to drop off 20 French women and children before proceeding to London. The second Iraqi Airways jetliner was to carry 72 women and children to Amman, Jordan - 66 Japanese, two Australians and four others of undetermined nationality, said government spokesman Naji al-Hadithi.
The foreigners were among an estimated 21,000 Westerners and Japanese who were trapped when Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, causing world economic and military pressure against the government of President Saddam Hussein.
Both planes had been scheduled to take off from Baghdad today at about 6 p.m. (10 a.m. EDT), al-Hadithi said. He had said at a news conference that the plane carrying the British and U.S. nationals would fly to London, then Washington.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said today that seven British and three American women received exit visas from Iraqi officials today but that their husbands, who were accompanying them, were all detained.
Officials have said 237 women and children have been assembled at a hotel in Baghdad since Tuesday, when Saddam said they would be allowed to leave. Red tape slowed the process, with the government requiring exit visas.
American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson was aboard a plane that flew to Kuwait this morning to pick up ″four or five″ seriously ill Americans and bring them back to Baghdad, the government spokesman said.
He did not say whether the ailing Americans were men or women, or elaborate on their condition.
He said Baghdad had received word from the United States ″through diplomatic channels″ that some ailing Americans were among the foreigners stranded in Kuwait after Iraq’s invasion.
The Americans apparently were hiding to avoid internment by the Iraqis who have used many foreigners as human shields to fend off any attack by U.S.-led multinational forces based in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Hadithi said when Jackson met with Saddam earlier this week he appealed for their release.
A West German commercial airliner left from Frankfurt for Iraq today to pick up German women and children, the West German Foreign Ministry said. The ministry said the flight was arranged to pick up an estimated 100 West German women and children in Iraq but would likely include other Westerners as well.
″We expect the plane to be full,″ said the spokesman. The plane has 259 seats. About 450 West Germans are in Iraq and 260 are believed held in Kuwait, the ministry said.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry said a plane chartered by the Japanese government left this morning for Jordan to pick up Japanese women and children allowed to leave. A Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a total of 80 Japanese, including 68 women and children and 12 dependents of Japanese Embassy personnel in Iraq, are to be flown to Japan.
In Madrid, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said 52 Spaniards were to be evacuated aboard a Lufthansa plane.
Al-Hadithi, who is director-general of the Ministry of Information, said Britain and the United States have granted the Iraqi Airways jetliner permission to land in London and Washington.
″But we are surprised that we still have not received a positive response from the French government,″ al-Hadithi said.
He said the same plane is to bring back Iraqis stranded in Europe and the United States since the invasion, but again provided no numbers.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it would have no objection to Iraqis returning to Baghdad aboard flights airlifting people out.
In France, 26 Iraqi military personnel and civilians connected with the defense program remain in the cities where they were undergoing training programs before the invasion.
The French have not linked their departure to Westerners in Iraq.
Meanwhile, 24 Italian women and children arrived in Rome today, a day after most of them left Iraq. Twelve of the women and all seven children had been in Kuwait City during the invasion, and traveled to Baghdad a week ago.
Another Italian woman from Baghdad and four from the Iraqi city of Mosul joined the group in Amman, Jordan on Friday.
″Coming home is a beautiful feeling, even if the Iraqis were always very courteous to us,″ said Regina Garofalo, a singer who had been performing at a Kuwait hotel at the time of the invasion.