- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran’s national carrier has signed an agreement to buy 20 new passenger airplanes with an option for 20 more from French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, Iranian media reported Tuesday.

The purchase comes a week after Iran Air signed a deal to buy 118 planes from the European consortium Airbus, signaling a major effort to develop the civilian aviation sector now that international sanctions have been lifted under a landmark nuclear deal.

ATR said the deal signed with Iran Air includes a firm order for 20 ATR 72-600 planes. Iran’s private Donya-e Eghtesad daily says the deal is worth $1.089 billion.

Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi said Tuesday that the planes will be delivered over 3 years, beginning in 2016, according to the official IRNA news agency.

He said that under a separate agreement, a French company will build a new terminal in Tehran International Airport within a year, without elaborating. He said the government hopes to expand the airport’s capacity from 8 million passengers to 40 million over the next four years by adding two other new terminals as well as renovating an existing one.

He added that Iran hopes to become a hub for long-haul flights. More than 1,000 international flights fly over the country every week.

Iran has also expressed interest in buying passenger aircraft from American manufacturer Boeing.

The historic nuclear deal with world powers was implemented last month after the U.N. verified that Iran had fulfilled all its obligations to curb its nuclear activities. Tehran said Monday that it now has access to more than $100 billion worth of previously frozen overseas assets.

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