Flights end as Kurds pres­sured

Bill for re­fur­bish­ment of Big Ben tower bal­loons

Sunday News - - WORLD -

BAGH­DAD The last in­ter­na­tional flight left Er­bil air­port in north­ern Iraq yes­ter­day as the Bagh­dad gov­ern­ment im­posed an air ban on Iraqi Kur­dis­tan in re­tal­i­a­tion for an in­de­pen­dence vote that has drawn wide­spread op­po­si­tion from for­eign pow­ers.

Iraq’s Kurds over­whelm­ingly backed in­de­pen­dence in Mon­day’s ref­er­en­dum, de­fy­ing neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, which fear the vote could lead to re­newed con­flict in the re­gion.

For­eign air­lines have sus­pended flights to the Kur­dish cap­i­tal, Er­bil, and Su­laimaniya in the au­ton­o­mous re­gion, obey­ing a no­tice from the gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad, which con­trols Iraqi airspace. Do­mes­tic flights are still al­lowed.

The Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment, mean­while, re­fused to hand over con­trol of its bor­der cross­ings to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment, as de­manded by Iraq, Iran and Turkey in re­tal­i­a­tion for the inde- pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

The Iraqi De­fence Min­istry said it planned to take con­trol of the bor­ders ‘‘in co­or­di­na­tion’’ with Iran and Turkey.

After talks in Ankara with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan said the ref­er­en­dum was il­le­git­i­mate and Rus­sia and Tur- key agreed that the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of Iraq had to be pre­served. Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said Turkey would tar­get only those who had de­cided to hold the ref­er­en­dum, and would not make civil­ians pay the price for the vote.

Iran banned the trans­porta­tion of re­fined crude oil prod­ucts by Ira­nian com­pa­nies to and from Iraqi Kur­dis­tan.

United States Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said yes­ter­day that ‘‘the vote and the re­sults lack le­git­i­macy’’ be­fore go­ing on to urge ‘‘calm and an end to vo­cal re­crim­i­na­tions and threats of re­cip­ro­cal ac­tions’’.

The Iraqi par­lia­ment urged the Bagh­dad gov­ern­ment to send troops to take con­trol of oil­fields held by Kur­dish forces. Bagh­dad has also told for­eign gov­ern­ments to close their diplo­matic mis­sions in Er­bil. Reuters LON­DON The cost of re­pair­ing El­iz­a­beth Tower, the iconic clock tower of Bri­tain’s Par­lia­ment, which houses the bell called Big Ben, have dou­bled fol­low­ing a de­tailed anal­y­sis by sur­vey­ors.

Re­pairs to the tower will cost £61 mil­lion (NZ$113m), up from an orig­i­nal es­ti­mate of £29m, the House of Com­mons an­nounced yes­ter­day. The 13.7-tonne Big Ben bell fell si­lent in Au­gust ahead of the four-year restora­tion pro­ject.

The state­ment does lit­tle to dis­pel fears that the wider costs of restor­ing the whole of Par­lia­ment will also ex­ceed es­ti­mates. That pro­ject may cost £5.7 bil­lion and take as long as four decades.

The higher cost is down to sur­vey­ors gain­ing a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the state of the tower’s stonework and clock faces, and for the ground works to sup­port the weight of scaf­fold­ing, ac­cord­ing to the House of Com­mons.

Au­thor­i­ties also in­creased to £17.2m from £5.8m the sum of money put aside for con­tin­gen­cies in case of un­ex­pected events, and added £4.5m worth of fire safety work. Wash­ing­ton Post-Bloomberg

PHOTO: REUTERS

The cost of ren­o­vat­ing El­iz­a­beth Tower has more than dou­bled from the orig­i­nal es­ti­mate.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Kurds protest out­side Er­bil In­ter­na­tional Air­port as the last in­ter­na­tional flight leaves yes­ter­day.

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