AP: Iran has increasingly turned to Russia to replace its aging U.S. and European-made airliners, a response to U.S. sanctions that affect the country’s aviation industry, the official IRNA news agency reported Monday. Associated Press
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) Iran has increasingly turned to Russia to replace its aging U.S. and European-made airliners, a response to U.S. sanctions that affect the country’s aviation industry, the official IRNA news agency reported Monday.
Aviation chief Saeed Hesami said Russian planes were Iran’s best option, according to IRNA, despite a string of crashes in recent years involving Russian-made aircraft that have killed hundreds of people.
“We have no option but to buy Russian planes because we have to meet the air transportation needs of the nation,” Hesami was quoted as saying by IRNA. “Iran won’t allow … U.S. sanctions to ground its aviation fleet.”
U.S. sanctions ban the export of advanced technology to Iran, including spare parts for its fleet of U.S.-built Boeing aircraft. Pressure from Washington has also limited the transfer of equipment for Iran’s European-made Airbus planes.
In 2002, Iran’s transportation minister at the time, Ahmad Khorram, told parliament that Iran’s air industry had reached “a crisis point” and was suffering from U.S. sanctions.
Iran has sought to purchase new aircraft from Boeing and Airbus in recent years, but has been rebuffed, leading the Islamic Republic to buy or lease jets from Russia. Last month, Tehran finalized the purchase of five Tupolev-204 planes, which Hesami said were more advanced than the Tupolev-154 aircraft currently owned by Iran.
There have been several major plane crashes in recent years involving Russian aircraft, the most recent in 2003, when a Russian-made Ilyushin plane crashed in bad weather into a mountain in southeastern Iran, killing some 300 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.
Western nations have offered to sell Iran new planes and spare parts if Tehran freezes nuclear activity they suspect is cover for a weapons program. But Iran has rejected the offer, saying the country has the right to produce nuclear fuel, which it claims is for electricity generation, not weapons.