MOSCOW, March 31 (RIA Novosti) - Iraq has announced it will search more Iranian aircraft flying via its airspace to Syria, soon after US State Secretary John Kerry slammed Baghdad for taking no action in that regard, media reported Saturday.
“Because of a lot of information which referred to transportation of weapons, we have increased the activity of inspections,” Al Jazeera quoted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s spokesman Ali Mussawi as saying Saturday.
“We will carry out more random searches, to be assured that there is no weapons transfer,” he said as cited by the Qatar-based broadcaster.
But as Mussawi spoke of new restrictions on Iranian flights, the chief of Iraq's civil aviation authority said no aircraft had actually been searched since October 2012.
Kerry earlier told reporters in Baghdad during his surprise visit there that he “made very clear to the prime minister that the overflights from Iran are in fact helping to sustain [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad and his regime.” He told Maliki that American politicians were “watching what Iraq is doing.”
About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures.
Russia, along with China, has faced widespread condemnation over its refusal to approve UN sanctions against Assad’s regime. Moscow has repeatedly stated it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but is rather concerned that unilateral sanctions would create a power vacuum that would lead to more violence.