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Tue 11 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Iranian government investigates IKIA shutdown

The reformist Iranian government has launched an investigation into the military’s shut down of Tehran’s new airport.

The reformist Iranian government has launched an investigation into the military’s shut down of Tehran’s new airport. The Revolutionary Guards closed down the Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) on Saturday, the airport’s first day of operation, and parked military vehicles on the runway, after just one of the day’s six scheduled international flights had landed.

The Iranian cabinet has now said that it will prosecute those involved in the shut down. "The cabinet of ministers expressed grave regret over the incidents that took place against legal frameworks and by the intervention of irresponsible elements," the ISNA news agency reported.

Mehdi Karroubi, the Parliament Speaker, also named two lawmakers to investigate the closure which he called "a disaster and a disgrace for the country", the official IRNA news agency said.

The shutdown is being attributed to the fact that IKIA is being operated by TAV, a Turkish-led company, which was ordered to pull all of its equipment and staff out of the airport.

The army has demanded that TAV’s contract be annulled before the airport is re-open. However, TAV believes that its memorandum of understanding, which also covers a US$193 million deal to build and operate a second terminal, was still valid. It added that the dispute might take three weeks to resolve.

"This matter is nothing more than the small local airlines trying to avoid moving from the existing Mehrabad Airport to the Imam Khomeini Airport," a company statement said.

A Turkish government official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters: "We have not received any official information from Iran yet on this subject. However, removing a Turkish firm for a reason like this is something which must be investigated. We are following it."

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