Iran Says the U.S. Will Allow Repairs to Iranian Airplanes

The U.S. will allow Iran to repair its aging fleet of airliners in a third country, Iranian state-run radio reported Wednesday.

Air accidents are frequent in Iran, where most passenger planes are 16 years old, on average. Tehran blames the accidents on U.S. sanctions that bar American companies from selling new aircraft to Iran. The country's 13 carriers have tried to upgrade their fleets with European aircraft, but the U.S. has pressured Europe not to sell.

Nearly 30 people died in September when a Russian-made Tuplev-154 caught fire on landing in northeastern Iran.

Western nations have offered to sell Iran new planes and spare parts as part of an incentives package aimed at getting Tehran to roll back its nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear activities are to generate fuel, not weapons, and it refuses to give up the program.

Iranian state-run radio said Wednesday that the United States had agreed to allow Iranian Airbus models to be repaired in a third country, but it did not specify where.

The broadcast also quoted the head of Iran's civil aviation organization, Nourollah Rezai Niaraki, as saying Iranian officials had recently complained to an international aviation group about Washington's sanctions.

"In recent meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Canada, we complained that the U.S. sanctions on Iranian civil aviation are against the law. The ICAO authorities promised to solve the case," Niaraki said.

He added that Iran was ready to work with American manufacturers to repair the planes.

After the news item, the radio aired a commentary criticizing the U.S. sanctions and their effect on Iranian aviation.

"Americans are trying to raise the difference between the Iranian nation and the Iranian government. This sort of activity will not improve the U.S. image in the minds of Iranian people," it said.

The country's main carrier, Iran Air, has seven Tupolevs in its 43-plane fleet. It also has seven Boeings bought before the 1979 Islamic revolution, and 28 European Airbus and Fokker aircraft.

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the 1979 hostage standoff at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The U.S. accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons but Iran has said its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity only.

(nk-lf)


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