March 14, 2012 / 12:57 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Iraq reaches $500 million airline debt deal with Kuwait

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BAGHDAD, March 14 (Reuters) - Iraq has reached a $500 million agreement with Kuwait to resolve a standoff over Gulf War-era debts that had prevented Iraqi Airways from flying to destinations in the West, an aide to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday.

Under the deal, Iraq will pay Kuwait $300 million in cash and will invest another $200 million in a joint Iraqi-Kuwaiti airline venture, Maliki's media adviser Ali al-Moussawi told Reuters by telephone from Kuwait where Maliki was on a visit.

In return, Kuwait would lift legal actions against Iraqi Airways, he said. In 2010 Kuwait's lawyers tried to seize an Iraqi Airways plane on its first flight to London more than 20 years.

The issue of Iraqi Airways debts is one part of a long-running dispute between Iraq and Kuwait over billions of dollars of reparations dating back to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990-91.

Saddam's forces seized aircraft and parts during their occupation of Kuwait, before they were driven out in the U.S.-led Gulf War.

Iraqi Airways has regular flights to Beirut, Dubai, Tehran and Amman, but legal cases have made it difficult to start flights to European cities without risking its planes being confiscated.

Iraq is keen to resolve some of its disputes with Kuwait ahead of a March 27-29 Arab League summit in Baghdad, the first to be held there since before the 1990 invasion. (Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by David Holmes)

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