Iraq inspects Iranian jet en route to Syria, second this week

BAGHDAD, April 9 Tue Apr 9, 2013 10:05am EDT

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BAGHDAD, April 9 (Reuters) - Iraq inspected a Syrian-bound Iranian plane on Tuesday, but found only civilian goods onboard during the second such search this week which came after Washington urged Baghdad to stop weapons reaching Tehran's ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran's support for Assad is politically delicate for Iraq, which balances its own close ties to Tehran against its relations with Washington and Sunni Muslim Arab Gulf neighbours who are opposed to the Syrian leader.

"Another Iranian plane was searched this morning. It was coming from Tehran on its way to Damascus. We found nothing but clothes and civilian equipment," said Ali al-Moussawi, Maliki's media advisor. "It was an Airbus cargo plane, and we allowed it to continue its trip."

Washington believes flights and overland transfers from Iran to Syria via Iraq take place every day. But Iraq rejects charges it allows Tehran to ferry military equipment or fighters through its territory.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Iraqi Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to do more to prevent Iran shipping arms to Syria, calling the overflights "problematic". (Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Patrick Markey and Jon Hemming)

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