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Iraqi Officials Laud U.S. Transfer Of Basra Airport Runway

A U.S. soldier stands guard at the Basra International Airport.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials say the U.S. handover of the main runway at Basra airport to Iraqi officials will allow the airport to handle large commercial and cargo aircraft as the military role is reduced, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Basra International Airport Director Abdel Amir Ghanim told RFI that giant airplanes like Boeing 747s and Antonov 225s can now land at the airport. Ghanim noted that the airport authority "is working closely with [U.S.] forces to operate the Basra airport for solely civilian purposes."

Colonel Ran Albert, chief of staff of U.S. forces in southern Iraq, said at the handover ceremony on January 18 that the transfer of the runway to Iraqi officials "will enable the airport to be considered in the future for international certification."

Albert added that the airport will be an important facility for foreign investment in the region. He expressed hope that the next time he comes to the airport it will be as a tourist landing in Basra "to enjoy the rich culture and history of [Iraq]."