- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Bush administration said yesterday it would let Iran buy spare parts for commercial aircraft as a humanitarian gesture, despite “grave concerns” about the Iranian regime.

The decision came as the United States and five other major powers agreed that the U.N. Security Council will begin next week drafting a list of sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program.

“We do not want to be in a position of threatening civil aviation,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. “The United States is focused on the pressing humanitarian concerns that affect the Iranian people.”

The departments of State and Commerce informed Congress on Sept. 29 that they would recommend the Treasury Department issue a license to General Electric Corp. “to permit the exportation of spare and replacement parts, components and technical data for the repair and overhaul of a limited number” of such engines on aircraft operated by Iran Air.

“As conditions for the license approval, all repairs will be performed in third countries and no exports will go directly to Iran,” the State Department said.

The State Department has blacklisted Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, and a long list of sanctions prevents American companies from doing business with the Islamic republic.

“Despite our grave concerns regarding the Iranian regime’s activities, we believe this decision is consistent with our commitment to support the Iranian people and to use U.S. sanctions to target the regime, not the Iranian people,” the department said.

Senior officials from the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — and Germany held a video conference yesterday following their foreign ministers’ Friday meeting in London on Iran’s nuclear program.

They were not able to narrow down the menu of sanctions and turned the matter over to their U.N. ambassadors, who are expected to meet on the issue next week, diplomats said.

That meeting was supposed to take place this week, but North Korea’s apparent nuclear test Monday prompted the Security Council to rearrange its schedule.

A senior U.S. official said on Friday that the first Iran sanctions would target its nuclear industry, rather than oil and gas.

Iran’s ambassador to France, Ali Ahani, said in Paris yesterday that Tehran is still interested in negotiations but will not suspend uranium enrichment.

“The door is still open, as long as two important elements are accepted: our well-defined rights under the nonproliferation program, and our guarantees that our nuclear ambitions are not geared toward military use,” Mr. Ahani said.

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