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Iraq searches Syrian-bound Iranian plane | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi authorities have for a second time this month ordered an Iranian cargo plane heading to Syria to land for inspection in Baghdad to ensure it is not carrying weapons, an Iraqi official said on Sunday.

The move may be aimed at easing U.S. concerns that Iraq has become a route for shipments of Iranian military supplies that might help Syrian President Bashar Assad battle rebel forces in his country’s civil war.

The head of the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority, Nassir Bandar, said that the inspection took place Saturday because officials were concerned the plane might be carrying arms. The inspectors allowed the plane to continue its journey after they determined there were no weapons onboard, he said.

“Our experts found that the plane was carrying only medical supplies and foodstuffs. So the flight was allowed to proceed,” Bandar said.

Bandar said Iraqi authorities would continue searching planes suspecting of hauling arms to Syria. Iraqi officials have repeatedly said they would not allow their country or airspace to be a corridor for arms shipments to either Syrian government forces or rebels.

Iraq ordered another Iranian cargo plane to land for inspection on Oct. 2. No weapons were found in that search either.

Last month, Iraq banned a North Korea plane from using its airspace over suspicions it was carrying weapons to Syria.

American officials have expressed concern that Iranian planes may be ferrying weapons over Iraq, and they have pressed Baghdad to take stronger action to ensure that no transfers occur.

Also in Iraq, police said three people were killed and eight other wounded when two bombs exploded near a market southeast of Baghdad.

Police officials say the simultaneous attacks Sunday morning took place in Madain, about 20 kilometers (14 miles) southeast of Baghdad, as shoppers started to arrive.

Medics in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Violence has ebbed in Iraq, but insurgent attacks are still frequent. Sunday’s blasts followed a string of attacks that killed 40 people in the Iraqi capital a day earlier. Saturday was the deadliest day in nearly six weeks.