US Working to Block Iran from Using Recently Acquired Airbus Jets

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – US officials said the Obama administration is actively working to block Tehran from using nine recently acquired Airbus Group SE jets in a battle over sanctions weeks before the two sides are supposed to complete a final nuclear deal.

US Working to Block Iran from Using Recently Acquired Airbus Jets

Iranian officials this week threatened to take legal action against the US if it seeks to block the use of the jets. Officials have said the country plans to use the planes on international flights.

But a senior US administration official said Wednesday the US would continue to "vigorously" enforce the sanctions it has in place on Iran despite the advanced state of talks on Tehran’s nuclear energy program.

"We have identified the planes in question and listed their tail numbers," the official said. "I have been quite explicit with the Iranians…that we will try to disrupt this action because Mahan Air has been a designated entity for some time," the official said, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The US Treasury Department has put Iran’s Mahan Air under sanctions, but the airline was able to purchase the planes last month, allegedly using Iraq-based Al-Naser Airlines as a middleman.

Last month, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Al-Naser Airlines, Syrian businessman Issam Shammout and his United Arab Emirates-based company Sky Blue Bird Aviation for allegedly serving as fronts for Mahan Air to buy the airplanes from European companies.

Earlier in May, a senior official with Iran's Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) announced that the US government has violated the international law by imposing sanctions against two aviation companies that sold second-hand civilian aircraft to Iran.

Deputy Head of Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) for Aviation and International Affairs Mohammad Khodakarami further emphasized that based on the article 33 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (also known as Chicago Convention), the contracting countries, including the US, have agreed to recognize the air fleets registered in other member states.

He went on to say that also according to the article 44 of the convention, the member countries should avoid discrimination against any contracting country.

The dispute comes as the nuclear talks between Iran and six powers have hit what the official called a “pretty tough” stage, three weeks before the June 30 deadline for completing a deal.

Iran and the Sextet (the five permanent UNSC members plus Germany) reached a framework nuclear deal on April 2 and are now trying to flesh out a detailed agreement.

Senior officials from the European Union and Iran returned to Vienna on Wednesday to resume talks, with the US negotiating team set to join them on Thursday.

Earlier on Wednesday, ranking diplomats from Iran met with European Union Deputy Foreign Policy Chief Helga Schmidt as part of a fresh round of talks to draft the text of a long-awaited comprehensive deal.

Iranian top negotiators and deputies foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi, held talks with Schmidt at Vienna's Palais Coburg hotel.

The EU coordinates diplomacy with Iran on behalf of the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, US, Britain, France, and Germany).

The deputy-level talks are expected to run until Friday.

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