Exclusive: Testing detente, U.S. firms move to sell jet parts to Iran

(Reuters) – U.S. aerospace companies are seeking permission to sell airliner parts to Iran for the first time in three decades, in a key test of the temporary relief on sanctions given under talks to curtail Iran’s nuclear activities.

At least two leading manufacturers, Boeing and engine maker General Electric (GE), have applied for export licenses in a six-month window agreed by Iran and six world powers in November, industry officials and other sources familiar with the matter said.

If approved, the sales would be the first acknowledged dealings between U.S. aerospace companies and Iran since the 1979 U.S. hostage crisis led to sanctions that were later broadened during the dispute over Iran’s nuclear activities.

A GE spokesman said his company had been asking since 2004 for permission to provide parts and maintenance for engines for safety reasons, without profiting from the scheme. GE, the world’s largest maker of jet engines by sales, refiled its request after the sanctions relief came into force, he added.

“We don’t want to make a penny on it. It’s entirely for flight safety,” Rick Kennedy said, adding that GE would donate any proceeds to charity.

A source familiar with the matter said that Boeing, the world’s biggest manufacturer of passenger jets, had also filed a request for permission to export parts to Iran.

Joel Johnson, an analyst with Virginia-based Teal Group, said that U.S. officials viewed the sale of spare aircraft parts as a powerful carrot for Iran, which for decades has relied on parts obtained on the black market or copied locally.

He said the move could also help American companies to put themselves in a position to benefit if a broader softening of sanctions is agreed.

“It allows some U.S. companies to get a foot in the door and restore relations that they have not had for over 20 years,” Johnson said.

A senior Iranian official told Reuters in November that Iran could require between 250 and 400 jets if and when sanctions are lifted completely.

Full article: Exclusive: Testing detente, U.S. firms move to sell jet parts to Iran (Reuters)

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