TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran would order passenger planes from Boeing if the United States lifts sanctions barring American firms from doing business there, a top Iranian aviation official said Thursday, suggesting that this would also help the U.S. battle the impact of the global financial crisis.
"Iran has been an important Boeing customer," Reza Jafarzadeh, spokesman of the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran told The Associated Press. "With sanctions imposed, the U.S. has denied its own companies of a big profit."
"Governments support economic interests of their companies, but the U.S. is harming its own commercial interests," Jafarzadeh said. "If Americans want to save themselves from the current financial meltdown, they need to reconsider their policies and lift sanctions."
Since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, the country has been under U.S. sanctions that, with few exceptions, prohibit American companies from trade with the country. The sanctions also apply to civilian passenger aircraft and spare parts, hampering Iran's efforts to maintain its aging fleet of Boeing and European-made Airbus planes.
Washington has recently been stepping up pressure on Iran, targeting the country's banking and finance sectors with a host of new restrictions in response to the hardline government's refusal to halt its nuclear program, including uranium enrichment.
The U.S. and its allies believe Iran is pursuing a bomb, a claim Tehran denies while arguing its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes.
Washington has said in the past that it would be willing to offer Iran Boeing parts as part of incentives aimed at getting the country suspend its nuclear program.
Jafarzadeh said Iran would "definitely order passenger planes from Boeing if sanctions are lifted." He added that the sanctions are self-defeating, and were endangering lives.
"Politics should not endanger the lives of civilians that are generally from various nationalities," Jafarzadeh said.
The International Civil Aviation Organization has warned that U.S. sanctions were ignoring international treaties and placing civilian lives in danger by denying Iran new planes, as well as necessary spare parts.
Jafarzadeh said one positive outcome from the restrictions has been the development of a domestic airline industry.
"U.S. sanctions prompted Iran to seek self-sufficiency. Now, Iran is able to overhaul Boeing and Airbus planes, while we didn't have capability to do so in the past," he said. Several of the aging Boeing and Airbus planes that were once grounded because of a lack of parts are now back in service, he said.
For decades, Iran supplemented its fleet of 148 passenger planes -- mostly U.S. and European-made -- with planes bought or leased from the former Soviet Union. But drawing on expertise from the Ukraine, it now produces its own aircraft.
The twin-propeller Iran-140 plane, Iran's first passenger aircraft, entered service in May 2002. Since then, several more of the 52-seater plane have been produced by Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industries in Isfahan, about 400 kilometers (200 miles) south of Tehran.