Bush Administration Approves Exports to Iran for Country's Airline

The Bush administration said it is approving exports to Iran of spare parts and other equipment for the country's national airline, despite the standoff with Tehran over its nuclear program.

The State Department cited worries about travel safety in explaining the decision, which will allow the export of items used to repair turbine engines on Airbus aircraft operated by Iran Air.

"We do not want to be in a position of threatening civil aviation," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters on Wednesday.

McCormack said the General Electric Co. would provide the equipment to Iran. The department announced the decision on Tuesday.

While Iran supports terrorism and is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, McCormack asserted, "the United States is focused on the pressing humanitarian concerns that affect the Iranian people."

The Federal Aviation Administration has questioned whether the aircraft are airworthy and recommended immediate overhaul, he added. The departments of Commerce and State approved a license for the parts Sept. 29, McCormack said.

The administration labels Iran a sponsor of terrorism and has banned virtually all trade between the two countries.

The decision to grant a license, however, will clear the way for export of spare and replacement parts and technical data to repair and overhaul a "limited number" of engines manufactured in the United States.