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Fri 22 Nov 2013 10:50 AM

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Kuwait Airways resumes flights to Iraq

In sign of post-war thaw, first flight lands in Najaf since the 1990 Iraqi invasion

Kuwait Airways resumes flights to Iraq
A Kuwait Airways airplane lands in Beiruts international airport 07 September 2006, just after Israel lifted its punishing eight-week air blockade amid intense international efforts to underpin a UN-brokered ceasefire. A flight from Paris by national carrier Middle East Airlines was the first plane to land in Beirut, the hour Israel announced it would start to lift restrictions at precisely 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) 07 September. (AFP/Getty Images)

A scheduled Kuwait Airways flight landed in Iraq late on Wednesday for the first time since the 1990 Iraqi invasion, in the latest sign of improved ties between the neighbours.

Kuwait's national airline flew 100 passengers to Najaf, 160km south of Baghdad, the director of Najaf's international airport told state news agency KUNA, adding that most were visiting Shi'ite Muslim holy sites in the city.

KUNA said Kuwait Airways planned to fly twice a week to Najaf, which is more secure than the capitalBaghdad, where bombings are an almost daily occurrence.

Diplomatic relations between Kuwait and Iraq improved last year after a settlement over debts from the era of the 1991 Gulf War, in which a U.S.-led coalition forced Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

Ties have also been bolstered by a series of bilateral visits involving Kuwait's ruler and Iraq's prime minister.

Iraq's state airline resumed flights between Baghdad and Kuwait in February for the first time since the invasion. But most major carriers that ply the route still do so through other cities such as Dubai, even though the Iraqi and Kuwaiti capitals lie just 560 km (346 miles) apart.

In December, Kuwait Airways dropped legal cases against Iraqi Airways in return for compensation of $500 million.

The legal row was part of a broader dispute over billions of dollars in reparations dating back to the invasion, when the forces of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein seized aircraft and parts.

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