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Tehran's new airport goes into operation

Tehran, April 30, IRNA-Iran dismissed safety fears at its new international airport which the country re-opened Saturday with the landing of a flight from Dubai.

The director general of Iran's Airports Company, Asghar Ketabchi, stressed that there exists ultimate security at the Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) after Britain and Canada concertedly advised travellers not to use it.

photo: ISNA

"We are aware of reports that the runway at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran may not yet be suitable for use," the British Foreign Office said in an advisory.

"We are in contact with the Iranian authorities about this. Until the situation has been clarified, we advise British travellers to travel by flights using the existing (Mehrabad) airport," it added.

photo: ISNA

The Canadian government issued a virtually identical advisory. But Ketabchi roundly brushed aside the claims, stressing that 'aviation security' is being guaranteed by the state-of-the-art systems, which are being handled by domestic specialists at the airport.

"We will accordingly give a technical response to these allegations," he said.

"I am not a security official; I am an executive administrator and an airport specialist, but as far as I am concerned the Imam Khomeini International Airport enjoys optimal safety," Ketabchi added.

Iran officially reopened IKIA airport Saturday with the landing of an Iran Air flight, putting behind months of bickering which had kept it shut down since it was inaugurated by President Mohammad Khatami almost a year ago.

According to civil aviation authorities Wednesday, Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) will initially handle all flights on the route between Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

"All flights of domestic and foreign companies from Tehran to the United Arab Emirates and vice versa will be carried out from the Imam Khomeini International Airport, effective April 30," the statement said.

"According to this statement, the landing and take-off of these flights from Mehrabad Airport will not be authorized," it added.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Civil Aviation Organization, Reza Jaafarzadeh, said all flights from and to Iran to the Persian Gulf littoral states, barring Saudi Arabia, will take place from the IKIA, starting May 9.

"Effective May 9, all flights of domestic and foreign companies from Iran to the Persian Gulf littoral states, including UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait and vice versa, but not Saudi Arabia, will take place from Imam Khomeini International Airport," he said.

Iran's armed forces closed down Imam Khomeini International Airport on May 8, 2004, citing security concerns, just after it was officially inaugurated with the landing of a foreign aircraft.

They had stressed that the airport would remain closed as long as 'security provisions' were not met.

Officials have said that the IKIA will eventually be able to handle 40 million passengers a year, making Tehran a regional transport hub.

The dispute beat all the way up to the Iranian parliament, leading to the impeachment in October of transport minister Ahmad Khorram, whose ministry had awarded the IKIA contract to the Turks.

The parliament also passed an urgent bill, giving itself the prerogatives to scrap the two contracts if they are deemed a threat to national security.

The decision prompted the Government to postpone President Khatami's planned visit to Turkey.

Iran had initially awarded the Turkish-Austrian consortium Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV) to build and operate the IKIA.

Transport Minister Mohammad Rahmati was quoted in February as saying that Iranian officials had accepted to cede the IKIA to a consortium of six domestic entities if parliament removed TAV from the picture.

"In the event of the Majlis' opposition to the participation of the Turkish company TAV in the IKIA deal, the situation will change across-the-board," the daily Kayhan quoted him as saying.

Rahmati said the government as well as the transport ministry were awaiting parliament's decision on whether to engage TAV in the deal.

Another Turkish deal to build the first Iranian private mobile network has faced a similar snag.

In February, parliament decided to trim down Turkish telecommunication major Turkcell's stake in the project to a non-controlling 49 percent share, citing security concerns.

Parliament also decreased Turkcell's subscription price to about dlrs 125 per line from the company's suggested price of dlrs 178.

The deal is facing further blocks as the Guardian Council, which screens all parliamentary laws, was recently reported to have demanded more changes to the contract to remove security concerns.

... Payvand News - 4/30/05 ... --

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