Iraqi security forces will take control of Basra International Airport from UK troops on 1 January, 2009

by Hugh Tomlinson

Published: 24 December 2008 11:05 GMT

Under full Iraqi control, commercial services at the airport are to be increased, with the southern city acting as a hub for air travel to other areas of the Gulf. 

The Transport Ministry wants to ramp up scheduled services and attract regional airlines to the airport, which is mostly used at present by domestic Iraqi Airways services, and for charter flights serving the pilgrim market to Saudi Arabia.

British forces have held the airport since the US-led invasion in 2003, and will withdraw to a military base adjoining the site. This will in turn be handed back to Iraq when the UK pulls out fully from Iraq.