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Friday, October 29, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
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Iraq considers relaunching airline, to meet with Boeing

By Reuters

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi officials will meet Boeing executives next week as the government considers whether to go with the company's aircraft or those of Europe's Airbus for a national fleet, Iraq's transport minister said yesterday.

Competition between Boeing and Airbus could heat up in Iraq if the country relaunches its national carrier and secures its airports.

Iraqi Airways, which owned a formidable fleet before the 1990 Gulf war, operates several flights a week to Amman, Jordan, and Damascus, Syria, using two used Boeing 737s acquired three months ago.

Transport Minister Louay al-Eris said there were no funds allocated so far for a new fleet but that the government intended to invest in Iraqi Airways, despite debt and lawsuits from the Saddam Hussein era.

"Our plan is to return Iraqi Airways as a leading carrier and for Baghdad Airport to become a regional service center," he said yesterday.

"We will talk to Boeing and with anyone who could meet our requirements, which have yet to be studied."

The meeting with Boeing will be outside Iraq, the minister said.

He denied rumors Iraq had signed with Airbus for two narrow-bodied A320s.

Airbus had signed a pre-1990 Gulf war contract to supply Iraq with about six A310s.

Iraq paid a $12 million deposit to Airbus about 16 years ago for the unfulfilled contract, Eris said.

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