TEHRAN — Iran will sign a contract this week to buy 114 Airbus planes from France, during a visit to Paris by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran’s transport minister said Sunday.
Abbas Akhoundi, quoted by Iranian media, said the deal “will be signed between Iran Air and Airbus” when Rouhani is in Paris on Wednesday on the final day of his first official European visit. Rouhani’s trip follows the implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers that curbs Tehran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.
Iran desperately needs to modernize its aging passenger plane fleet, which has only 150 operational planes out of more than 250, according to Akhoundi.
“We have been negotiating for 10 months” for the purchase of planes but “there was no way to pay for them because of banking sanctions,” Iranian state media quoted Akhoundi as saying. “We need 400 long- and mid-range and 100 short-range planes,” he added. The first batch of new planes will arrive in the country by March 21, he said. Iran, with a population 79 million, has a good road network but still needs major transport upgrades, which Tehran hopes will aid tourism. Rouhani is to visit Italy and France on Jan. 25-27 to boost Iran’s economic ties with Europe. Iran currently has no deals in place with American manufacturer Boeing “because of problems with negotiating with the U.S.,” according to Akhoundi. State television said the U.S. Treasury had not yet permitted Boeing to enter talks with Iran, “but we will definitely negotiate with this company too,” the minister added. Apart from new planes, Iran’s airports also need US$250 million worth of upgrades, he said. Only nine of Iran’s 67 airports are currently operational. The Islamic republic on Saturday signed a US$2 billion contract with mainland China to electrify the railway line linking Tehran with second city Mashhad, Akhoundi said.