Boeing and General Electric given licence to export jet parts to Iran
Permission to sell parts for aircraft sold pre-1979 granted after nuclear deal eased sanctions
The US Treasury Department has issued Boeing and General Electric (GE) with licences to export certain spare parts for commercial aircraft to Iran under a temporary sanctions relief deal that began in January.
A spokesman for engine makers GE said the Treasury had approved the company's application to service 18 engines sold to Iran in the late 1970s.
They will be serviced at facilities owned by GE or Germany's MTU Aero Engines, which is licensed to do the work.
He said GE officials would meet with officials from Iranair and MTU in Istanbul this week to discuss Iran's needs.
A Boeing spokesman said his company, the world's biggest aircraft maker, received the licence this week and would now contact officials in Iran to determine which parts were needed.
He said the licence covered only components needed to ensure continued safe flight operations of older Boeing planes sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution, and did not allow any discussions about sales of new aircraft to Iran.
The sales would be the first acknowledged dealings between US aerospace companies and Iran since the 1979 US hostage crisis led to American sanctions that were later broadened in response to Iran's nuclear activities.
Iran agreed in November to curtail its nuclear activities for six months from January 20 in exchange for sanctions relief from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. The deal provides for the sale of parts to flag carrier Iranair, the fleet of which includes vintage Boeing and Airbus jetliners delivered as long ago as 1978.
A spokeswoman for the Treasury, which enforces international sanctions, said the department did not comment on licence applications or requests.
Iran says the sanctions have prevented it from renewing its fleet, forcing it to use sub-standard Russian aircraft and to patch up jets that have long since exceeded their normal years of service. Since 1990 it has had more than 200 accidents, causing more than 2,000 deaths, according to official news agency IRNA.
Boeing said the licence was aimed at helping improve the safety of Iran's aircraft.
"We take the safety of flight issue very seriously," said the Boeing spokesman. He had no immediate details on how many parts would be sold to Iran, or their potential value.
Analysts say the sales could help American companies position themselves for potential sales of new aircraft if a broader softening of sanctions is agreed.
A senior Iranian official said in November that Iran could require between 250 and 400 jets if and when sanctions were lifted completely.
US charges 2 with exporting illegal nuclear centrifuge parts to Iran
The United States has charged a Chinese man, an Iranian and two Iranian firms with conspiring to export devices to Iran that can serve to enrich uranium, according to an indictment unsealed on Friday.
Police in London arrested Cheng Sihai, 34, of Shanghai, on February 7 at Heathrow Airport. London's Metropolitan Police force said Cheng had already appeared in court there and was awaiting his next appearance.
US prosecutors say Cheng conspired with Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, of Tehran, and the Iranian companies Nicaro Eng Co and Eyvaz Technic Manufacturing to export US-made pressure transducers.
The devices, which are a type of sensor, can be used in gas centrifuges to "convert natural uranium into a form that can be used for nuclear weapons", according to the indictment.
MKS Instruments in Andover, Massachusetts produced the parts. The indictment alleges Cheng would ship the transducers to Iran upon receiving them in China.
Publicly available photographs of Iran's Natanz enrichment facility show numerous MKS pressure transducers attached to Iran's gas centrifuge cascades, according to the indictment.
Cheng began doing business with Jamili and Nicaro around November 2005 and had since sold the Iranian thousands of Chinese-manufactured parts with nuclear applications, US prosecutors said.