Iraq to shut down Baghdad airport for Arab League summit
BAGHDAD - Baghdad's international airport will shut from March 26 until the end of an Arab League summit in the Iraqi capital on March 29, the country's civil aviation chief said on Tuesday.
"We will close off flights from the 26th until the end of the summit," said Nasser Hussein Bandar, head of Iraq's civil aviation authority. "It (the airport) will be used for receiving delegations."
An airport security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Baghdad airport would be closed from March 26 to March 30.
The summit is due to be held on March 29, but will be preceded by two days of meetings of Arab ministers.
A senior Iraqi general said on Monday that security forces were considering putting Baghdad on lock down for the summit, the first non-emergency meeting of the Arab League to be held in Baghdad in more than 30 years.
"Al-Qaeda is working hard to create chaos and trying hard to gain media attention," Lieutenant General Hussein al-Baydhani, chief of staff for the Baghdad security command centre, said in his office in the capital's heavily-fortified Green Zone.
He added that loyalists of now-executed leader Saddam Hussein were also looking to carry out attacks.
"We are working to keep Baghdad functioning normally during the summit," he said, adding: "We do not plan to put in place a curfew, but maybe necessity will require that."
Iraqi leaders have given repeated assurances that all necessary security arrangements are in place for the summit despite the frequent violence still rocking the country, which saw 150 people killed in February, according to official figures.
The summit had been due to be held in Baghdad a year ago, but security concerns and regional uprisings against strongmen in several Arab countries saw the meet delayed.