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Iran's government spokesman plays down spat over closure of international airport

Tehran, June 28, IRNA -- Iran Monday played down a spat, surrounding the closure of an international airport south of Tehran, rejecting a report on alleged showdown between the government and revolutionary guards over the project as 'a joke'.

photo: ISNA

"There is no confrontation between Government and Sepah (the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps)," said Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh when questioned on a British press report about behind-the-scene saber rattling between the two.

Iran's armed forces closed down Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) on May 8, citing security concerns, just after it was officially inaugurated with the landing of a foreign aircraft.

The forces have stressed that the airport will remain closed as long as 'security requirements' for carrying out flights from it are not met.

Brigadier Ali Reza Afshar, deputy chief for cultural and defense propagation affairs of the armed forces, has said national flag carrier Iran Air's commissioning of the airport's operation to foreign contractors was the problem.

Ramezanzadeh, however, said 'a series of irresponsible interferences of certain individuals' have caused the problem, stressing that the allegations made in the British publication 'is not more than a joke'.

IKIA's Terminal 1, located in the middle of an uninhabited land about 45 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital, was built at a cost of 350 million dollars. It can receive 2.5 million international and four million domestic passengers a year.

Officials, at the time the airport was completed, said that it will eventually be able to handle 40 million passengers a year, making Tehran a regional transport hub.

President Mohammad Khatami inaugurated Terminal 1 on February 1-- the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic marked by the return of Imam Khomeini from exile.

It was to start handling international flights two months later, that is, by end of March.

Iran Air had commissioned the operation of the airport to a Turkish-Austrian consortium, but the armed forces say this is jeopardizing the country's 'security' as well as 'dignity'.

... Payvand News - 6/29/04 ... --

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