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U.S. To Train Iraqi Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers

BAGHDAD -- The United States is to train Iraqi pilots and air traffic controllers under a new agreement between the two countries' governments, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

The agreement provides for the opening in Baghdad of a training school supervised by the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency. That school will be financed by a $7-million U.S. grant and will train Iraqi pilots. The United States will also provide training for air traffic controllers and air safety experts.

Nasser Hussein, the assistant director of Iraqi Airways, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq that the agreement was negotiated during a recent visit to Washington by Iraqi Transport Minister Amir Abdel Jabbar Ismael.

Ismael also reached an agreement with his American counterpart Ray LaHood that will allow Iraqi Airways to resume regular commercial flights to the United States after a hiatus of nearly three decades.

In 2008, Iraq signed a $5.5-billion deal with Boeing to purchase 40 new planes, with an option to buy 15 more.

Hussein said the first planes were to be delivered by 2013, but Ismael asked Boeing during his stay in Washington to advance the date to the end of 2010. He said Boeing promised to give that request due consideration.

Established in 1945, Iraqi Airways is one of the oldest airlines in the Middle East. It operates services across the region, and to Africa and Europe. In the 1970s, it was granted a route to New York's JFK International Airport.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Iraqi Airways was grounded by UN sanctions. It resumed international operations in October 2004 with a flight from Baghdad to Amman.