Iraq PM insists Iran flights to Syria carrying ‘humanitarian goods, not weapons’


Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki insisted Friday that all items transported through Iraq to Syria were humanitarian goods after a U.S. newspaper reported Iran was moving weapons to Syria via Iraqi air space.

“Iraq does not allow its land or its skies to be a passage for weapons in any direction, and from any source,” Maliki said in a statement released by his office.

He said shipments going through Iraq were “only carrying humanitarian goods, not weapons.”

Maliki said Iraq was “pushing towards finding a political solution to the Syrian situation... (and) to avoid more bloodshed.”

The Washington Times reported on Thursday that Iraq refused “several” U.S. requests to stop Iranian cargo flights bound for Syria, citing an unnamed U.S. official.

The newspaper said Iraq was made aware of intelligence obtained through intercepted air traffic communications that the planes were transporting weapons, and added the U.S. requested Iraq either stop the flights or allow them to be inspected.

The report comes just weeks before Baghdad is due to host an Arab League summit on March 29, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody year-long crackdown on domestic opponents expected to be high on the agenda.

While Iraq has largely shied away from imposing punitive measures against Syria, Maliki has called for “change” and “free elections” there.

Monitors have said more than 9,100 people have died in the uprising in Syria, while the United Nations estimates more than 30,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring states and another 200,000 have been displaced within the country by the violence.