Flights end as Kurds pressured
Bill for refurbishment of Big Ben tower balloons
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
The cost of renovating Elizabeth Tower has more than doubled from the original estimate.
Kurds protest outside Erbil International Airport as the last international flight leaves yesterday.