TEHRAN'S NEW INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT SHUT BY THE ARMY
Posted Saturday, May 8, 2004
TEHRAN, 8 May (IPS) In a spectacular move that looks like a coup, Iran's Armed Forces closed on Saturday the Emam Khomeini International Airport, Tehran's newly built international airport hours after it was officially inaugurated.
In a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA, the Armed Forces said they shut down the EKIA of fears of security concerns.
But informed sources said however that dispute between the Turkish- Austrian consortium ((TAV) that built the new airport, situated 50 kilometres south of the capital might also be one of the reasons.
"Unfortunately officials at the airport ignored the security measures...on not deploying foreign groups at this vital centre in the country", the statement said, adding that the airport would remain close until further notice
The joint-armed forces were not immediately available to comment, but said in the statement they allowed only one of six planned flights from Dubai to land before shutting the airport.
Experts had from the start objected to this project that cost the country more than 500 millions US Dollars, with works going on for more than 30 years, insisting that the constructors, TAV had not prepared it to international standards.
Aviation sources for their part cites more charges, difficulties for fuelling, absence of proper security measures and other concerns for demanding delay in the transfer of flights from the old to the new airport.
Before the airport was to open, two local airlines said they would refuse to transfer their flights in protest at a government decision to hand over operation of the airport's only existing terminal to the TAV consortium.
"We are not flying from an airport run by foreigners", Ali Abedzadeh, director of semi-privately-owned Aseman Airline, was quoted as saying by Economic Hayat-e No daily on Wednesday.
While the flights were again diverted to the old Mehrabad international airport in central Tehran, the head of Iran's Aviation Organization told the students news agency ISNA that he opposed the closure.
"The security forces have no right to close the airport and it is illegal in terms of both domestic and international laws", he added.
For his part, Mr. Ahmad Khorram, the Transport Minister assured that the new airport would be open to international flights as decided. ENDS NEW AIRPORT CLOSED 8504 http://www.iran-press-service.com/ips/articles-2004/may/new_airport_closed_8504.shtml