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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 12:21 GMT
Iran orders new Airbus planes
Iran Air logo
Iran Air is modernising its fleet after recent crashes
Iran has turned to Airbus to modernise its national airline in a $500m deal to buy 10 new passenger planes, with engine orders mostly likely to be awarded to Rolls Royce.

In this way, 13 aircraft will join Iran's aviation fleet in the next Iranian year, starting 21 March, under the term of ultimate ownership.

Ahmad Khorram
Transport Minister
Two recent crashes have raised safety concerns about Iran Air and its ageing fleet of mainly Boeing jets bought before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

US trade sanctions barr the sale of aircraft or parts to Iran, which President George Bush describes as being part of an "axis of evil", if more than 10% originates from the US.

On Saturday, the Aftab-e Yazd newspaper quoted Transport Minister Ahmad Khorram as saying a deal to buy 10 Airbus planes had been "finalised" and the purchase another 20 used planes was being negotiated.

"In this way, 13 aircraft will join Iran's aviation fleet in the next Iranian year, starting 21 March, under the term of ultimate ownership," Mr Khorram said.

The deal will be welcomed by Airbus which lost orders for about 90 planes, more than a quarter of its order book, after airlines cut back on investment following 11 September.

Rolls Royce benefits?

While the plane orders will be placed with Airbus, airlines usually buy engines under separate deals.

US firms Pratt & Whitney and General Electric build engines for Airbus aircraft but would be barred from selling them to Iran because of the economic embargo.

Britain's Rolls-Royce is the only other engine maker for Airbus.

No details of what type of aircraft would be ordered were given and Airbus and Rolls Royce declined to comment.

Iran Air already flies seven Airbus A300s, which seat around 260 passengers, the last two of which were added to the fleet in 1994.

Fleet modernisation

The Iranian government has been under pressure to modernise its commercial fleet after two leased planes crashed in the past 12 months killing some 160 people.

The latest crash on 12 February of a Tupolev-154 killed all 119 people on board.

Iran Air Tours, a subsidiary of Iran Air, announced on Wednesday it had grounded Russian-built planes on 16 domestic routes.

Iranian carriers use 13 aging Russian-built planes, including at least eight which belong to Iran Air Tours.

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Business
Virgin orders new Airbus jets
17 Jan 02 | Business
Airbus upbeat despite sales slump
23 Jan 02 | Business
Boeing profits take $600m knock
09 Jan 02 | Business
Boeing 2001 orders down by half
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