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Iraq province scraps Bahrain carrier ban
by Staff Writers
Najaf, Iraq (AFP) Sept 22, 2012


Iraq's Najaf province has decided to scrap a ban on Bahraini carrier Gulf Air's flights after receiving complaints from Bahraini Shiites, a provincial council spokesman said on Saturday.

The provincial council had said the ban, which was announced on Thursday, was "in solidarity with the Bahraini people who are subjected to repression by authorities" -- a reference to Shiite-majority protesters opposed to the government of the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.

But with large numbers of Shiites visiting shrines in Najaf and Karbala, the move threatened to inconvenience those it was meant to support.

The decision to resume flights came "as a result of the large number of appeals... from the sons of the Bahraini people demanding the resumption of the airline's flights, which ease visits to the holy places in Najaf and Karbala," provincial council spokesman Mohammed al-Khuzaie told AFP.

Gulf Air began resuming flights to Shiite-majority Iraq and Iran on Thursday after they were stopped in March 2011, the month that Bahraini security forces backed by a Saudi-led Gulf force carried out a bloody crackdown on the Shiite-led protest movement.

A single flight flew into Najaf on Thursday before authorities announced the now abandoned ban.

Bahrain has witnessed sporadic demonstrations since March of last year, mostly outside the capital Manama, and the arrest of dissidents and crackdowns on protesters have continued, according to activists and human rights groups.

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