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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iranians Fall Back on Russia to Replace Decrepit Airliners

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran has increasingly turned to Russia to replace its aging U.S.- and European-made airliners, a response to U.S. sanctions that affect the country's aviation industry, the IRNA news agency reported Monday.

Aviation chief Saeed Hesami said Russian planes were Iran's best option, IRNA reported, despite a string of crashes in recent years involving Russian-made aircraft, which have killed hundreds of people.

"We have no option but to buy Russian planes because we have to meet the air transportation needs of the nation," Hesami was quoted as saying by IRNA. "Iran won't allow ... U.S. sanctions to ground its aviation fleet."

U.S. sanctions ban the export of advanced technology to Iran, including spare parts for its fleet of U.S.-built Boeing aircraft. U.S. pressure has also limited the transfer of equipment for Iran's European-made Airbus planes.

In 2002, Iran's then-transportation minister, Ahmad Khorram, told the parliament that Iran's air industry had reached "a crisis point" and was suffering from U.S. sanctions.

Iran has sought to purchase new aircraft from Boeing and Airbus in recent years, but has been rebuffed, leading the Islamic republic to buy or lease jets from Russia.

Last month, Tehran finalized the purchase of five Tu-204 planes, which Hesami said were more advanced than the Tu-154 aircraft currently owned by Iran.

There have been several major plane crashes in recent years involving Russian aircraft, the most recent in 2003, when a Russian-made Ilyushin plane crashed in bad weather into a mountain in southeastern Iran, killing some 300 members of the elite Revolutionary Guard.

Iran has rejected an offer by Western nations to sell it new planes and spare parts on the condition that the country freezes nuclear activity.