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Sun 18 Sep 2016 05:01 PM

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Iran expects US export licences for $50bn aircraft deals within weeks - official

Iran provisionally agreed earlier this year to buy over 200 jets worth $50 billion at list prices from Airbus and Boeing

Iran expects US export licences for $50bn aircraft deals within weeks - official
(Getty Images)

Iran has been told that the United States will issue export licences within weeks to facilitate the purchase of Boeing and Airbus jets and European ATR turboprop planes, a senior Iranian official said on Sunday.

Approval had been expected by the end of August, but that has been pushed back to the end of September, Deputy Roads and Urban Development Minister Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan said.

"Today we are expecting that (approval) by the end of September for Boeing, Airbus and ATR," he told the CAPA Iran Aviation Finance Summit in Tehran.

The US Treasury can veto sales of modern aircraft to Iran, including non-US ones, due to the high proportion of US parts.

Failure to issue the required US approval would breach an agreement between Tehran and world powers to ease sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities, Kashan said.

An Iranair official said the airline is meanwhile looking to acquire second-hand aircraft or hire crewed aircraft to help meet its most urgent needs.

Iran provisionally agreed earlier this year to buy over 200 jets worth $50 billion at list prices from Airbus and Boeing.

Both deals hinge on the longer-than-expected process of winning US Treasury approval.

There have also been delays in getting European banks to finance the deals because of restrictions over the use of US dollars and concerns over legal risks if sanctions are re-imposed.

Akhoundi said Iran was complying with its obligations and meanwhile continued to negotiate with other planemakers.

"We are negotiating with all those big names ... There are a lot of obstacles but I am sure that because we have respected all the international rules and regulations, all those problems are going to be resolved," he told the CAPA Aviation Finance Summit.

Critics in the US Congress argue that Iran could use passenger jets for military purposes such as transporting fighters to battle US troops or allies in Syria or transfer the aircraft to airlines still under US sanctions.

US critics of the nuclear deal also say it could allow Iran to skirt remaining sanctions by transferring jets acquired by national carrier IranAir to airlines that remain on a US blacklist, such as the country's largest carrier, Mahan Air.

In an interview with Reuters, Akhoundi dismissed the concerns.

"We have a contract. We will stick to it," he said.

He also told a news conference that the Tehran event, attended by dozens of foreign firms, proved that aviation was international in scope and "the US government cannot stand against it," according to a translation of his remarks.

The House of Representatives in July passed two amendments that would stop the aircraft sales, although to become law they need to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama.

Iran estimates it will need at least 400 aircraft to renew and expand its fleet, including some 250 in the next 10 years.

Besides the aircraft sales, Iran is dangling the prospect of significant business for Western companies including nationwide airport expansion as it emerges from decades of sanctions.

"There are more than 60 airports in Iran but 80 percent of flights are in just 10 and these are working beyond capacity; that is why we need to develop," Akhoundi said.

"They are all ready to attract investors, who are welcome to invest in any part," he told the conference held at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport, which plans a $2.8 billion expansion.

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