Iran Reopens Int'l Airport After Tension

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran reopened an international airport outside the capital Saturday that had been shut down last year by hard-line Revolutionary Guards over suspicions surrounding a Turkish-Austrian consortium handling the terminal.

The first flight to land at Imam Khomeini International Airport was an Iran Air plane from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, state-run television reported.

Reza Jafarzadeh, Civil Aviation Organization spokesman, was quoted as saying that all flights to and from all Persian Gulf states, excluding Saudi Arabia, will be handled by the new complex as of May 9. He said all international flights will move to the new airport within a year.

Domestic carriers will continue to use Tehran's Mehrabad airport, which is close to the city center.

The new airport, 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of the capital Tehran, was officially inaugurated last year but the Revolutionary Guards stormed its premises in May and forcefully shut it down, citing security grounds.

Former Transportation Minister Ahmad Khorram was impeached by the conservative-dominated parliament and subsequently lost his post in October after he was accused of jeopardizing Iran's security by signing a deal with TAV, a Turkish-Austrian aviation consortium, to operate the airport.

Hard-liners in parliament believe the contract compromised Iran's security and aviation systems. Iranian armed forces, controlled by hard-liners, accused TAV of having links with Israel, Iran's arch foe.

The US$325 million (euro251 million) airport, named after the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has a capacity of 2.5 million international and 4 million domestic passengers a year.

The airport is a step toward Iran's plan to become a regional transport hub, with an aim of handling 40 million passengers a year.