Iran News ...


Parliament commission trims down Turkish firm's share in Iran venture

Tehran, Jan 30, IRNA -- A parliamentary commission Sunday limited Turkish entity Turkcell's share in a major telecommunication project in Iran as part of a solution to a standoff which has held it from setting up Iran's first private mobile telephone network.

"Members of the commission approved that Iran's share in the contract be raised to 51 percent against a maximum 49-percent foreign share," Majlis special commission rapporteur Ahmad Mahdavi said.

Turkey's leading GSM operator Turkcell is expected to invest about three billion dollars in the project, making it one of the biggest foreign investments in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Turkcell, however, has failed to go ahead with the project amid political saber-rattling inside Iran over worries that the country's security could be compromised.

A member of the special commission, Ramezanali Sadeqzadeh Sheikhan said, "One of the MPs' criticisms regarding the Turkcell contract was related to the division of the shares, where 70 percent was in the hands of non-Iranians against 30 percent for Iranians.

"Today, this problem was resolved and the shares were approved for an arrangement of 51 percent for Iranians and 49 percent for foreigners."

Sheikhan said 'security and economic problems' of the deal will be discussed at Monday's session of the special commission, pending final approval by parliament.

Like Irancell, the fate of a deal to build and operate a major airport in southern Tehran by a Turkish consortium, TAV, has remained in balance amid security worries.

Intelligence Minister Ali Younessi dismissed last week security worries, saying the problems were being sorted out.

Speaking at a news conference, Younessi stressed that there were no security worries at issue, and that the problem was related to 'procedural' differences which, he said, were being removed.

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

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

The country's armed forces, however, have stressed that the airport will remain closed as long as 'security requirements' for carrying out flights from the facility are not met.

Younessi called the closure 'a mistake which will be made up for'.

The dispute has beaten 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 them a threat to the country's national security.

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

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ahmad Motamedi had announced the government's readiness 'to remove the MPs' concerns regarding the (Irancell) contract and implement necessary modifications'.

"The esteemed parliament deputies will certainly not accept cancellation of this important national project, given the sensitivities which exist regarding national interests and the people's welfare.

"Despite the concerns which certain individuals outside the parliament created among the MPs and led to the presentation of an urgent bill ordering to prevent the implementation of the Irancell deal, negotiations continue on a hopeful note," he has said.

Motamedi has stated that the current Iranian mobile phone network, providing connection to 3.5 million subscribers in a country of 70 million, lags 10 years behind the rest of the world in updating its technology.

"Bridging this gap in the short-term through traditional methods is certainly impossible," he says.

According to the communications minister, the Irancell deal, better known as the Second Operator in Iran, is 'one of the solutions to overcome this problem'.

"A simple estimate indicates that if we rely on the capability of the First Operator, given the 25-fold increase in the country's capacity, it will take between eight and ten years to meet the existing demands (for mobile phones)," Motamedi says.

Next year, 2.5 million new lines will be added to the network, according to the minister.

... Payvand News - 1/30/05 ... --

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