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US government approves passenger jet sales to Iran

Airbus and Boeing say they have received US government approval to sell passenger jets to Iran
Iran's elderly fleet is held together by smuggled or improvised parts after years of sanctions

The United States has begun unblocking deals by Western planemakers to renew Iran's ageing passenger fleet, in a move likely to ease growing complaints from Tehran over the implementation of last year's historic sanctions deal.

Europe's Airbus said on Wednesday it had received US Treasury approval to begin exporting jetliners to Iran.

US planemaker Boeing also said it obtained a US government license to complete a sale of planes to IranAir, moving closer to the first such deal since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Boeing said it remained in talks with IranAir to finalise the sale after the two sides reached a preliminary agreement in June. The deal is valued at as much as $25bn.

The move signals the unfreezing of one of the most high-profile deals between Iran and foreign companies since last year's nuclear agreement.

But complex questions remain over the financing of deals between Iran and Western planemakers that could still obstruct deliveries of many of the planes, in what is seen as a test case for Western trade and investment following last year’s nuclear accord.

Earlier this year, Airbus and its US rival Boeing each signed deals to supply over 100 jets to flag carrier IranAir to modernise and expand the country's elderly fleet, held together by smuggled or improvised parts after years of sanctions, Reuters reported.

But nine months after the first deal was signed, Iranian officials have voiced growing concerns about what they see as slow progress in obtaining the US licenses needed for most modern aircraft because of their ample use of US parts.

An Iranian official told Reuters earlier this week that its deal for 118 Airbus jets was being trimmed by six units following the regulatory delays.

Diplomats say new jets will allow pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani to argue the sanctions deal is working. But the deals are opposed by US Republicans who say the jets could be misused and by conservatives in Iran who oppose the country's opening and say the purchases will not benefit most Iranians.

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