A number of countries have recently defied the U.S. government and sent planes to Baghdad, which has been under an unofficial air embargo since the Gulf War. The flights are a clear indication that the United States is growing more isolated in its support for sanctions on Iraq.

Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, France, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen together have sent more than 30 planes with relief supplies and delegations of doctors, business people and government officials to Iraq since August, openly challenging the U.S. view that U.N. sanctions prohibit such flights.

While Egypt and Syria ignored a 1990 U.N. resolution that calls for U.N. inspection and approval of such flights--but does not openly bar them--most of the countries flying to Baghdad have given advance notice. France and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, which oversees and maintains the sanctions, notified the United Nations of its flights, but did not wait for clearance.

Baghdad also resumed domestic flights on November 5, flying planes into two areas where British and American jets have flown thousands of sorties and routinely fired at Iraqi aircraft. Two Russian planes took off at the same time for Mosul, in the north, and Basra, in the south, in an open challenge to the so-called "no-fly zones." "We will continue to monitor closely any Iraqi aviation to determine whether it poses a threat to our forces, Iraq's neighbors or the Iraqi people," an unnamed spokesman for the State Department told The Associated Press.

Even Turkey, which has served as a base for the U.S.-led bombing campaign against Iraq, has flown two flights to Iraq. "The international sanctions on Iraq are clearly crumbling," the government-aligned Turkish Daily News editorialized. "The flights to Baghdad may be symbolic, but they reveal a more important trend, that more and more countries do not want to 'punish' the Iraqi people any more."


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