Saturday, April 30, 2005

Reuters | Imam Khomeini International Airport Opens

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "

Sat April 30, 2005 9:00 AM GMT-04:00
By Paul Hughes and Amir Paivar

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran opened its new main international airport on Saturday, despite warnings from at least two countries that the runway may be unsafe.

The Imam Khomeini International Airport, built to serve the capital Tehran, received a first commercial flight from Dubai almost exactly a year after its inauguration was aborted when the military closed it down because of concern over security.

Further flights to and from Dubai are due to use the new airport in coming days and all international flights will be switched there from the existing Mehrabad airport by March 2006, officials said.

Britain and Canada advised travelers to avoid the new airport.

"We are aware of reports that the runway at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran may not yet be suitable for use," the British Foreign Office said in a travel advisory.

"We are in contact with the Iranian authorities about this. Until the situation has been clarified, we advise British travelers to travel by flights using the existing airport."

The Canadian government issued a virtually identical warning. It was not immediately clear whether any other countries were giving the same advice.

Iran said the runway had been approved by international experts.

"I don't know the reason behind this advice," said Reza Jafarzadeh, spokesman for Iran's Civil Aviation Organization.

"The runway is ready and this has been approved by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), otherwise the organization wouldn't have issued permits for today's flights," he told Reuters.


An official of Emirates Airline, which has a flight to the new airport in the early hours of Sunday, said his company was satisfied its safety standards met international guidelines.

"We have seen all the facilities of the airport and are satisfied with them," Hamad Obeidallah, a senior vice president of the airline, told Reuters in Dubai.

One year ago military vehicles swarmed onto the runway and closed down the new airport after an inaugural flight had landed.

The military had expressed concern about security as the airport was being run by a Turkish company. After a year of wrangling the airport will now be operated by Iranian carriers, led by flagship airline Iran Air.

The airport, 30 miles south of Tehran, will eventually replace the aging Mehrabad International Airport close to the city center.

Flights from other Gulf destinations will be added to the Dubai route from May 9.

Neither Britain or Canada said exactly why they were concerned about the safety of the runway.

But an Iranian aviation source has told Reuters buildings at the new site have suffered from subsidence and there were fears the runway could not cope with the weight of a heavy aircraft landing on the tarmac.

Some European carriers have expressed concern about the lack of public transport links to the new site, which, because of Tehran's traffic congestion, can take more than 90 minutes to reach from parts of the capital.

(Additional reporting by Heba Kandil in Dubai)"


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