Iraq's official press on Friday criticized Turkey for extending a U.S.-British aerial surveillance force policing northern Iraq, saying Ankara was damaging its "interests" and ties with Baghdad.

"We reject such Turkish . . . stand and we call on the Turkish government to reconsider its position," al-Iraq newspaper said in a front-page editorial.The Ruling Baath party newspaper al-Thawra said that by approving the extension, "Turkey is damaging its interests . . . and turning its neighbors from friends to enemies."

Turkey has been a major outlet for Iraqi oil to world markets since Iraq resumed last year limited oil sales under a deal with the U.N. that allows it to export $2 billion over six months to buy food and medicine for Iraqis, hard hit by U.N. sanctions imposed for Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Turkish deputies on Thursday approved a six-month extension of the mandate of the joint U.S.-British force, based at the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey.

Warplanes patrol the skies of northern Iraq, outside Baghdad's control since the end of the 1991 gulf war, to protect Kurds from any attack by forces loyal to Iraq President Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, a Russian plane carrying five tons of medical supplies for children arrived in Iraq on Thursday after being granted permission by the United Nations.

Iraqis slaughtered 15 sheep in celebration when the plane, which also carried 21 members of the party of ultranationalist Russian Vladimir Zhirinovsky, touched down on a run-way at Baghdad's Saddam International Airport. It was the first flight to land at the capital's civilian airport in almost seven years.

Sweeping U.N. sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait led to the closure of the airport. United Nations and humanitarian flights to Iraq have used a military air base outside of the capital.

The last flight out of Iraq from Saddam International was Jan. 16, 1991. It carried Russians out of the country one day before the U.S.-led coalition that drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait began bombing Baghdad.

Iranian officials on Monday blocked the Russian plane from taking off after it stopped in the Iranian border town of Kermanshah. The flight was held until the U.N. Sanctions Committee in New York granted permission for the flight.