Dust storm shuts Iraq airport

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iol pic wld baghdad sandstorm REUTERS A traffic policeman directs vehicles during a sandstorm in central Baghdad.

A dust storm shut Baghdad airport on Tuesday, an Iraqi Airways official said, a day ahead of key talks between world powers and Iran on the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear programme.

“There are no take-offs or landings ... because of bad weather,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The closure began at about 8.00am (05.00 GMT), the official said, adding that four departing flights had been delayed so far.

It was unclear when the airport would reopen, or if attendance of the nuclear talks would be impacted by the closure. Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili arrived in Baghdad on Monday.

The talks, set for Wednesday, are to be held between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany. The first round of talks was held in mid-April in Istanbul.

Iran says its nuclear programme, which has expanded in recent years, is for peaceful purposes, to generate electricity and provide medical isotopes, but many in the international community suspect the programme to be a front for a covert nuclear weapons drive.

The Baghdad talks are the latest example of Iraq pushing to host a variety of events to present itself to the world as a relatively stable country that is no longer rife with violence. - AFP

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