Iran said on Saturday that it plans to purchase 114 civil aircraft from European aircraft maker Airbus.
The country’s Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi has been quoted by the media as saying that the early steps to make the purchases have been taken ahead of the anticipated lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
"We have taken the first step in agreeing with Airbus to buy 114 planes," Abbas Akhoundi has been quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency in a report that was also carried by Reuters.
Nevertheless, Airbus was quick to react to this and said it was not engaging in commercial talks with Iran until sanctions had been lifted.
Sanctions were expected to be lifted in the wake of a recent agreement on Iran's nuclear activities later on Saturday.
"Although Iran clearly has a need for new aircraft, we must conform strictly to the law and, until all measures concerning the embargo are lifted, no commercial discussions can take place," an Airbus spokesman said.
A deal for 114 airplanes would be worth more than $10 billion at catalogue prices, depending on the type of aircraft, Reuters reported.
US sanctions ban the sale of aircraft and parts to Iran. Under an interim nuclear deal in 2013, the West eased the ban on sales of spare parts but selling planes is still prohibited.
On the eve of the talks in Vienna over the removal of the anti-Iran sanctions, US President Barack Obama ordered to remove a decades-old ban on the export of civilian passenger aircraft to Iran as Tehran prepares to see sanctions relief.
Iranian officials say the country’s civil aviation fleet consists of 248 aircraft with an average age of 20 years, 100 of which are grounded.
Iran is believed to need at least 400 or more aircraft in the next decade to renew an ageing fleet that has suffered several fatal crashes in recent years.
For France-based Airbus, its main US rival Boeing and other manufacturers, that could mean an early windfall of $20 billion in deals, while leasing companies may also benefit due to long waiting times, Reuters reported.
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