Iranian Army to Allow Tehran Airport to Open
May 11, 2004
Iran's military, which blocked the runway at Tehran's new international airport on its first day of operations on Saturday, has given its go-ahead for the terminal to re-open, local media reported on Tuesday.
But the USD$475 million Imam Khomeini International Airport will remain closed while government officials try to clear up Saturday's surprise military intervention which has embarrassed the government and alarmed foreign investors.
"The [roads and transportation] minister wants a clarification of Saturday's events before he opens the airport for operation," airport director Hossein Pirouzi said.
The long-awaited opening of the new airport, located 45 km (28 miles) south of Tehran, descended into chaos on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards vehicles were driven onto the runway after just one of six scheduled international flights had arrived.
The next flight was diverted to an airport in central Iran while the rest were sent to Tehran's Mehrabad Airport, which the new airport is designed to replace.
Iran's armed forces said they had security concerns about the new airport due to government plans to hand over its operation to the Turkish-led consortium TAV.
TAV officials were ordered to withdraw their personnel and equipment from the airport on Friday and operations were handed over to flagship carrier Iran Air.
Deputy head of the Chief Staff of the Armed Forces Brigadier Ali Afshar was quoted on Tuesday as saying TAV's withdrawal from the airport meant it could be re-opened.
"Because foreign companies will no longer be in charge of the airport's operation, security obstacles are removed," the ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying.
Government officials have deplored the airport's sudden closure which Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi termed a "disgrace" for the country.
TAV officials have said they believe a memorandum of understanding they signed with the government last year to operate the airport's Terminal 1 is still in effect.
They say they have been told to vacate the airport for two weeks while the dispute is clarified.
Under its agreement with the government TAV was also awarded a USD$193 million deal to build and operate a second terminal at the airport.
Turkish government officials have expressed alarm at the apparent annulment of TAV's contract to operate the airport. A Turkish-led consortium won a USD$3 billion contract earlier this year to build and operate a mobile telecommunications network in Iran to compete with the state monopoly. http://news.airwise.com/stories/2004/05/1084272209.html
So this has to do with Israel? Iran afraid Turkey will let Israeli planes into the airport or use Iran airspace?