Greece's Aegean Airlines suspends flights to Beirut after plane damage

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An Aegean Airlines Airbus A320-200 taxis as it prepares to take off from Manchester Airport, Britain, January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

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ATHENS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - (This January 15 story corrects name of airport to Rafik Hariri not Rania Hariri)

Greece's largest carrier Aegean Airlines (AGNr.AT) said on Saturday it had suspended all flights to Beirut pending the results of an investigation into the cause of damage to one of its planes that flew to the Lebanese capital.

Ground crew at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport found external damage to the fuselage of a plane that flew from Athens on Jan. 10, prompting the airline a day later to suspend all flights to and from Beirut, a company statement said.

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It gave no further details about the damage found on the aircraft's exterior.

Lebanon's transport ministry dismissed what it said were comments on social media and in the media that suggested a bullet could be to blame.

Lebanese Transport and Public Works Minister Ali Hamie published an email on Twitter, dated Jan. 15, covering a technical assessment of damage found below the cockpit. "After close examination, it was determined that it was not the result of a bullet," the email said.

Αegean said it had notified Greek authorities and Beirut airport authorities and expected to give an update on resuming flights to Beirut in the coming weeks.

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Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Edmund Blair; Editing by Helen Popper and Timothy Heritage

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