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More on the British flight to Iraq

Friday November 10 12:26 PM ET
British Activists Fly to Iraq 

By LEON BARKHO, Associated Press Writer 

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A group of defiant peace activists flew into Baghdad
on Friday - the first flight from Britain to Iraq in a decade.

British lawmaker George Galloway, a critic of U.N. sanctions imposed on
Baghdad for its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, led the group. He said it did
not seek permission for the flight from the United Nations (news - web
sites) or the British Foreign Office.

``We didn't notify the British government, the United Nations - we came
here as free citizens of the world to this country that we love,''
Galloway told state-run Iraqi television.

The flight, Galloway said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press,
took off ``under the cover of darkness and subterfuge from Manston
airfield in Kent.''

``I hope that the government won't take action against us, but if they do,
then we'll relish our days in court,'' Galloway was quoted as saying in
the statement.

A British Foreign Office official said in London that Britain did not
consider the flight a violation of the sanctions.

The chartered Hungarian plane carried eight passengers. They are expected
to attend a three-day forum sponsored by the Iraqi government aimed at
seeking an end to the sanctions.

Iraqi state television also reported the arrival of a plane carrying a
delegation headed by Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir
Zhironovsky. He also was to attend the government forum.

Dozens of international flights from non-governmental organizations and
foreign countries seeking an end to U.N. sanctions have landed in Baghdad
in the last two months. Iraq this week resumed domestic flights in
defiance of the no-fly zones the United States and Britain have been
policing since shortly after a U.S.-led force drove Iraq from Kuwait in
the 1991 Gulf War.

Friday's flight from Britain was paid for by donations to the Mariam
Appeal, an organization fighting to end the sanctions, which Iraq blames
for the deaths of more than 1 million people.

In 1999, Galloway drove from London to Baghdad in a British double-decker
bus full of Britons, Moroccans, Algerians, French and Jordanians to
publicize his call for an end to the U.N. sanctions. He was given a hero's
welcome in Baghdad.

The U.N. has said the sanctions will be lifted only after U.N. weapons
inspectors certify Iraq has scrapped its weapons of mass destruction. The
Iraqi government says it has done so, and since December 1998, has barred
the United Nations from weapons inspections. 

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