A statement from the airline said it would initially operate one flight a week from Qatar's capital Doha to Iraq's second largest city on Saturdays.

"This is an important step towards building a normal life for the people of Basra and Iraq and will be significant in re-establishing the very important links between the Qatari and Iraqi people," the statement said.

The interim Iraqi Government Council, set up by the US-led occupation administration, had granted permission for six international airlines to fly passengers and cargo to and from Basra.

International flights to Basra had been suspended since the 1991 Gulf War.