Najaf: An airport south of Baghdad used by thousands of Shiite pilgrims has been closed over security concerns and a row with the Kuwaiti company responsible for its passenger operations.

Najaf airport, 150 kilometres south of the Iraqi capital, was shut on April 7 on orders from the transport ministry, causing daily losses of $100,000 according to provincial authorities angered by the move.

"We want Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to intervene," Najaf provincial councillor Khaled Al Jaishami told AFP, adding that the airport's closure was unreasonable.

Transport ministry spokesman Akeel Kawthar, retorted that the decision had been taken on safety grounds after the Kuwaiti company, Al Aqiq, failed to meet its contractual obligations to provide security equipment at the hub.

He said the company had been given months to meet its obligations but had repeatedly prevaricated and ignored requests to rectify the situation.

No one from Al Aqiq was immediately available for comment.

Around 800 people use the airport each day, most of them from Shiite-majority Iran and Bahrain, according to aviation officials.

But numbers surge during major festivals such as Ashura, when Shiites flock to Najaf's Imam Ali shrine.

The airport opened in July 2008. It was previously used as a military helicopter base under the regime of now executed dictator Saddam Hussain.