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Germany

Development minister held up at Baghdad airport over landing fee

The German development minister's three-day trip to Iraq got off to a bad start, as airport officials in Baghdad held him up for nearly two hours claiming his aircraft crew had not paid a 1,800 euro landing fee.

Dirk Niebel sitting in aircraft

Niebel was held up at the airport for almost two hours

Iraqi air security officials stopped German Development Minister Dirk Niebel at Baghdad airport over a disputed airport fee, according to a German newspaper report.

The online edition of the daily tabloid Bild reported on Wednesday that Niebel, beginning a three-day trip to Iraq, was held up for almost two hours at the airport before being allowed to fly Erbil in the north of the country.

Airport officials reportedly prevented the Transall military aircraft carrying Niebel from taking off on Tuesday afternoon, saying a landing fee had not been paid. The plane's crew said the fee had already been paid in cash, but eventually relented and paid 1,800 euros ($2,500).

Repercussions threatened

Niebel said the behavior of the Iraqi security forces was "abysmal" and signaled that there would be "repercussions" for the delays. He said he had informed the German Foreign Ministry of the incident, and that "the case is now in the hands of the Iraqi transport minister."

Niebel is traveling with a delegation of parliamentarians and economic representatives. Describing the general situation in Iraq, the minister said: "The transition from a state-controlled system to a free one will clearly need a bit of time. This country is lacking in people who make decisions."

Niebel is in Iraq to improve relations with the new government there and to advocate the protection of human rights and freedom of religion. On Tuesday he said honoring those values was "crucial in the process of establishing a democratic state under the rule of law."

Author: Andrew Bowen (dpa, AFP)
Editor: Nicole Goebel

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