By John Lee.
AFP reports that Iraqi officials laid the cornerstone of a new Mid-Euphrates Airport, 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of Karbala.
The $500-million project will be carried out by the UK-based Copperchase, with work supervised by the Khayrat al-Sibtein company, which belongs to the Imam Hussein shrine (pictured).
During the ceremony, Karbala Governor Aqeel al-Turaihi said that Karbala receives millions of pilgrims annually, and building the airport is a necessity.
The first phase will include the construction of a runway, passenger terminal, car park and maintenance facility, with the first flight expected in 18 months.