Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Monday, starting off a four-day visit that was delayed after Iran refused to allow his plane to fly over its airspace.
Al-Maliki, who met briefly with the imperial couple, was to meet with Japan's defense minister and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.
Al-Maliki was expected to thank Japanese leaders for their continued "support". Tokyo backed the U.S.-led invasion of
Iraq and provided troops for a non-combat, humanitarian mission in the southern city of Samawah. It withdrew its ground forces in July 2006 but has since expanded its Kuwait-based air operations.
Late last month, Japan's Cabinet approved a two-year extension of the country's air force mission in Iraq after it expires in July.
Al-Maliki's visit comes two weeks after Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi was in Tokyo and said that U.S.-led coalition forces should not be withdrawn until Iraq's army is fully trained and ready to take over security.
Members of the delegation traveling with al-Maliki said the Iranians informed his pilot that the plane could not enter their airspace because they had not been notified in advance of the leader's need to cross Iran.
The plane was diverted to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where al-Maliki stayed in the airport for more than three hours while his craft was refueled and a new flight plan was filed, the delegation members said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16