Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority expects to invite companies to bid for the first construction contract for the new Al-Furat Al-Awsat international airport in the second half of 2010.

The airport will be constructed in three phases with each phase being able to handle six million passengers a year, Adnan Blebil, director general of the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority tells MEED.

The first phase will involve building a passenger terminal to accommodate six million passengers a year, a control tower, a runway, taxiway infrastructure, administrative buildings, a mosque and a meteorological centre.

The airport will ultimately be able to accommodate 18 million visitors annually when complete.

Iraq also plans to build an airport city adjacent to the airport, but this is a long-term plan and not part of the first phase of development.

France’s Aeroports de Paris Ingenierie (ADPi) won the contract to carry out the development study for the airport in November 2009.

Under the contract, ADPi selected the site for the airport development, carried out the masterplan for the airport including the airport city and also carried out detailed studies for the first development phase.

Al-Furat Al-Awsat airport is located between the cities of Najaf and Karbala which is about 100-kilometres southwest of Baghdad.

The region receives about 12 million visitors a year, with the majority travelling during the main pilgrimage period.

The region is an important pilgrimage site for Shi’a muslims and has a number of shrines and areas of religious significance.

Blebil says there are also long term plans to expand the existing airports of Erbil airport and Suleimaniyah airport in northern Iraq.