Iran to land first Air­bus jet soon un­der new pact

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Iran ex­pects to get its first new jet within weeks un­der a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar deal with Air­bus for 100 planes, a se­nior of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day, as Tehran and West­ern firms race to re­open trade al­most a year af­ter sanc­tions were lifted. The first of the Air­bus jets should be de­liv­ered in mid-Jan­uary, part of plans to buy or lease 200 planes to re­new IranAir’s de­cay­ing fleet, against a back­drop of con­ser­va­tive crit­i­cism in both Wash­ing­ton and Tehran of last year’s in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions deal to al­low such busi­ness.

Sanc­tions were lifted in Jan­uary but were fol­lowed by months of reg­u­la­tory de­lays, and Iran has only just fi­nalised a deal to buy 80 jets from Air­bus’ US ri­val Boe­ing. “We have fi­nalised ne­go­ti­a­tions with Air­bus and any day we will be able to sign the deal in Tehran,” Deputy Roads and Ur­ban Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter As­ghar Fakhrieh Kashan told Reuters in a tele­phone in­ter­view. “We are ex­pect­ing some fi­nal clear­ances and ex­pect to sign to­day or to­mor­row.” The first Air­bus A321 could ar­rive be­fore the Jan. 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion of USPres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has op­posed the deal to lift most sanc­tions on Iran in ex­change for curbs on its nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties, and well ahead of Ira­nian pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in May next year.

That could pro­vide a boost to the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani and al­low Air­bus to find a home for some jets aban­doned or de­ferred by other cus­tomers due to eco­nomic prob­lems in South Amer­ica and else­where, an­a­lysts say. Air­bus, which has re­vised up its fore­casts for Ira­nian do­mes­tic de­mand, said it was still ne­go­ti­at­ing the IranAir deal. The air­line sees it­self as a fu­ture ri­val to Gulf-based su­per-car­ri­ers due to its ge­o­graph­i­cal po­si­tion.

Ini­tial plans to buy a dozen A380 su­per­jum­bos were dropped af­ter crit­i­cism from Ira­nian hard­lin­ers. Kashan said the deal with Air­bus will be split roughly equally be­tween nar­row-body jets in­clud­ing the A320 and A321 and wide­body jets in­clud­ing the A330 and A350.

Pact ‘vi­o­la­tion’ warn­ing

Such deals are also un­der fire from US Repub­li­cans. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s out­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion has granted li­cences to al­low the sales, a step re­quired by both Air­bus and Boe­ing due to the use of US parts, but an­a­lysts say com­plet­ing them de­pends in part on Wash­ing­ton’s new po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.

Asked whether either deal could be de­railed if Trump im­poses new re­stric­tions on trade with Iran, Kashan said: “We are not con­cerned, al­though we should not ig­nore such a pos­si­bil­ity. “The fact is that Mr Trump may im­pose cer­tain new sanc­tions, but we would con­sider that to be a vi­o­la­tion of the JCPOA (nu­clear ac­cord), which ex­plic­itly pro­vides for the pos­si­bil­ity for the pur­chase of air­craft and their sale by man­u­fac­tur­ers.” — Reuters

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