Iran Looks To Resume Direct Flights To US

Banking on the nuclear deal it signed recently with Western powers, Iran is seeking to resume direct flights to and from the United States, ending a three-decade moratorium, the Tehran’s aviation authority said.

“Iran’s aviation fleet is equipped with long-range planes that can make direct flights to the US without having to stop and refuel anywhere,” Mohammad Khodakarami, who head’s Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, was quoted as saying in a report Tuesday in the semi-official Press TV news site.

“Once the authorizations to do so are issued, CAO will start following up the other aspects involved in this issue,” he said.

The announcement is the latest sign of a thaw between the West and Iran after decades of strained ties following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

While hardliners, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have continued to make fiery anti-American statements, Western officials have signaled a growing openness to resume long-frozen commercial ties with the country in the wake of the nuclear deal clinched earlier this month.

Tehran has also been examining options for boosting the number of flights to other Western countries, among them Italy, Russia, Turkey, France and Germany, the official Tasnim agency reported Saturday, quoting Khodakarami.

He said that a delegation of French official was slated to travel to Iran to discuss the issue. The current two weekly flights on the Paris-Tehran route would be raised to 10, he added.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is expected in Tehran Wednesday.

Before direct flights between Iran and the US can be resumed, the American Congress has to ratify the deal, which faces stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers as well as some Democrats.

Congress has 60 days to review the agreement – reached between Iran, the US and five other world powers on July 14 – that seeks to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in exchange for wide-ranging economic sanctions relief.

US President Barack Obama has promised to veto any effort to block the deal from taking effect, and the administration is looking for enough votes to keep Republicans from overriding a veto. It takes a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of Congress to overturn a presidential veto.

“With regards to the issue of the removal of sanctions, several global plane makers from different countries have presented proposals for cooperation to Iran,” Khodakarami, the Iranian civil aviation chief, was quoted by Press TV as saying.

“Those proposals, which range from sales of planes to Iran to sales of airport facilities, have been submitted to the relevant institutions and are already under study,” he said.

Sanctions slapped on Iran are scheduled to be lifted over the coming months as the deal unfolds. But even post-nuclear agreement, Tehran will remain under Western scrutiny for its role in fomenting Mideast unrest and its human rights record.

European business people have been eager to resume business with the Islamic Republic, which holds plenty of economic promise. The country of 80 million people generates a $400-billion economy, boasts the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, the second-biggest stores of natural gas, and has well-established manufacturing and agricultural industries.

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