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By Safa Haeri
Posted Monday, May 10, 2004

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LA HERRADURA (SOUTH OF SPAIN) 10 May. (IPS) With the new Tehran international airport remaining shut by the Armed Forces, sources said the military action translates the deepening rift between the ruling conservatives with the embattled reformists, led by the powerless and now unpopular Mohammad Khatami.

The Emam Khomeini International Airport (EKIA), situated 50 kilometres south of the capital Tehran, was officially inaugurated with pomp on 9 May and one Iran Air flight coming from Dubai was authorised to land, but was immediately closed by the Revolutionary Guards units of the Armed Forces, diverting other flights to the old Mehrabad International Airport.

In a statement issued latter on, the military justified the action, saying that the new airport would remain closed until all security problems are removed, insisting that all services, like the handling of cargo and baggage, catering for airplanes and waiting passengers, all restaurants, markets, duty frees, shops etc are run by Iranians only.


The defense of a country’s national interests is the highest responsibility of the government and that the suspension of operations of the EKIA is a big blow to the interests of the Iranian nation


The national flag carrier Iran Air had commissioned the operation of the airport that cost more than 500 nmillions US Dollars and lasted more than 30 years to a Turkish-Austrian consortium, but the armed forces said this was jeopardizing the country’s "security" as well as "dignity."

“The military action could not be taken without authorisation of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, who, as the leader of the Islamic Republic, is also in full charge of the Armed Forces”, one source pointed out.

The defeated reformists have described the unprecedented intervention of the military in the affairs of the Executive as a “coup” against the government of President Khatami.

Mr. Mohammad Kianoosh Rad, a reformist deputy from the oil rich province of Khoozestan said the shutting down of the EKIA by the military is another proof that the country is run on a “kingdoms system in which any one that is stronger applies its own laws”.

In its statement, the Armed Forces said the Supreme Council of National Security (SCNS) had warned the responsible authorities about the “dangers” of the new Airport’s facilities being handled by foreigners.

“If this is the case, how come that Mr. Khatami, who is the Head of the SCNS has ordered the inauguration of the Airport, unless he had not been aware of the Council’s decisions”, one pro-reformist journalist asked.

In his view, the closure of the EKIA “shows that the conservatives are refusing the reformist government taking the benefit and proud of the inauguration of the regime’s only major project at any cost, even bringing on the military”.

“This is the first major confrontation between the reformists-led Executive with the conservatives in the past two decades”, commented the moderate “E’temad” daily under the title of “Airport Tragedy”, adding that the intervention of the Revolutionary Guards would have “further implications” for the regime.

This is the first major confrontation between the reformists-led Executive with the conservatives in the past two decades”, commented the moderate “E’temad” daily.


Although the paper did not emphasised, but analysts, pointing out to the fact that the new Majles, which is to start working in few months, is for the first time “filled” with militaries turned civilians and candidates close to the military establishment, mostly the Revolutionary Guards, say the decision to call on the military to shut the new Airport would pave the way for a real but dangerous militarisation of the Iranian theocracy.

Majlis Speaker Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi criticised the Army’s decision disallowing Imam Khomeini International Airport (EKIA) from further operating, and said “there was no room for brazenness and obstinacy when the prestige and interest of the country are at stake, and repeated his view that the airport`s closure was not in its interest”.

Making the remark in Monday’s open session of House, he said his
representatives would make a detailed probe into the case and then submit a report to the nation.

Karroubi then said he had assigned member of Parliamentary Commission on Development Mohsen Nariman and member of Commission on National Security and Foreign Affairs Ala’eddin Borujerdi to explore ways for settlement of the controversy which led to closure of the international airport.

The two MMs are expected to talk with both Minister of Roads and Transport Ahmad Khorram and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi for a settlement of the dispute over services to passengers flying or landing at the airport.

“The defense of a country’s national interests was the highest responsibility of its government and that the suspension of operations of the Emam Khomeini International Airport was a big blow to the interests of the Iranian nation”, he told deputies, adding that the decision on the airport’s operation is a sensitive issue that would have international repercussions and ought to be settled speedily. ENDS EKIA 10504



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