Qatari official says Kabul airport 90% operational, expects gradual reopening

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FILE PHOTO: Model of an Ariana Afghan Airlines airplane is seen in front of the international airport in Kabul

DUBAI (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Kabul Airport is about 90% ready for operations but its re-opening is planned gradually, a Qatari official said, speaking on the tarmac on Thursday.

Reopening the airport, a vital lifeline with both the outside world and across Afghanistan's mountainous territory has been a high priority for the Taliban as they seek to restore order after their lightning seizure of Kabul on Aug. 15.

Kabul airport had been closed since the end of the massive U.S.-led airlift of its citizens, other Western nationals and Afghans who helped Western countries.

There would be a flight on Friday, according to another Qatari official, special envoy Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani. He added that a flight out from Kabul on Thursday was regular flight and not an evacuation.

Flights into Kabul will fly through Pakistan's airspace for the time being because the majority of Afghanistan is still not covered by flight radar, the first official said.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell and Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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