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Mon 10 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Iran hopes to re-open airport in 15 days

Tehran’s new airport is still closed after the army intervention on Saturday, but the Civil Aviation Organisation is hopeful that it will re-open in two weeks’ time.

Tehran’s new airport is still closed after the army intervention on Saturday, but the country’s Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) is hopeful that it will re-open in two weeks’ time. The airport was shut down on its opening day when the Iranian armed forces blocked the runway with armed vehicles; an incoming Iran Air flight was also threatened with anti-aircraft fire and escorted by two fighter planes to Isfahan, 500 Km away, according to the reformist daily Shargh. All flights to Tehran are now being handled by the old Mehrabad Airport instead.

The new Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA), which is meant to be being operated by a Turkish-Austrian consortium, Tepe-Afken-Vie (TAV), is seemingly caught up in the on-going power struggle between conservative and reformist forces in Iran, with the conservatives resisting outside involvement in Iran. The armed forces commander, General Alireza Afshar, said in a statement that the airport will remain closed until the armed forces have "seen the cancellation of the contract with the Turkish company and a new contract (signed) with Iranian firms.”

The army has been campaigning in the pages of Iran's conservative newspapers against TAV, saying that the consortium has business interests in Israel. "The granting of contracts to Turkish and Emirati companies poses a security problem at the airport," said Afshar.

However, the CAO, which attributes the shut down to unspecified ‘safety issues’ believes that the airport will re-open within the next few weeks. “[The airport] has been closed down due to some safety reasons, but it will be operational in the near future. After this has all been discussed,” H. A. Shahbazilar, deputy, aeronautical & international affairs, Civil Aviation Organisation, Iran told www.itp.net “I think it will take about 15 days from now [to re-open],” he added

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