MOSCOW (AP) — Russia plans to sell up 100 passenger jets to Iran in what would be the largest such deal ever for Russia's aviation industry, an official said Tuesday.
A contract is expected to be signed later this year and delivery of Tupolev Tu-204 and Tu-214 airliners could begin next year, said Maxim Sysoyev, a spokesman for Russia's state-controlled United Aircraft Corporation.
Questions remain, however, about the viability of Russia's beleaguered aviation industry.
The twin-engine Tu-204 and its Tu-214 version were designed in the late 1980s to compete with Boeing's 757, but just a few dozen of the planes have been built. The nation's aviation industries effectively ceased to function amid the political and economic turmoil of the early 1990s.
Russian news reports put the cost of the deal at up to $2.5 billion
Iran has about a dozen Soviet-built Tu-154 airliners. In 2006, Russia negotiated the sale of five Tu-204s to Iran.
Russia has maintained close ties with Iran and is supplying enriched uranium for its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr, which is expected begin operations later this year.
Amid Russia's oil-driven economic boom of recent years, the Kremlin has put forward ambitious plans for the revival of the aircraft industry and aggressively courted foreign customers.