(Fixes typographical error in fourth paragraph)
ANKARA/PARIS Dec 15 Iran's Aseman Airlines has
agreed to lease seven Airbus jets, two aviation
industry sources said on Thursday, scotching earlier reports
that Iran had agreed to buy the aircraft directly from the
Labour Minister Ali Rabii was quoted by the Iranian
Students' News Agency (ISNA) as saying that Iran, which is
negotiating with Airbus through state flag carrier IranAir, had
agreed with Airbus to buy seven aircraft.
The report fuelled French media speculation that a keenly
awaited deal between IranAir and Airbus for more than 100
aircraft had been watered down significantly.
But industry sources said the two deals were not connected
and identified regional carrier Aseman Airlines as the company
behind the much smaller deal to procure seven aircraft, which
Rabii said would start arriving in May.
Those jets will be leased rather than purchased directly
from Airbus, the sources said, without identifying the leasing
Aseman Airlines could not be reached for comment.
Last week the European Union banned Iran's Aseman Airlines
from operating within the EU because of safety concerns, but the
airline said afterwards that it does not fly to the EU.
Owned by Iran's civil service pension foundation but managed
as a private company, Aseman is Iran's third-largest airline by
active fleet size, according to the CAPA consultancy.
Meanwhile, a delegation from Airbus is in Tehran for talks
to finalise a deal for about 100 planes.
Iran has been seeking to renew its ageing aircraft fleet
since the lifting of international economic sanctions in January
under a nuclear deal reached with six major powers.
On Thursday Airbus denied having finalised a deal with
IranAir but indirectly confirmed that another carrier had agreed
to acquire seven aircraft via a third party.
"Airbus has not finalised any contract so far with IranAir
and the agreement for seven airplanes that has been reported is
not directly with Airbus," a spokesman said.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Tim Hepher; Editing by David