Renton, Washington: Boeing Co. is waiting for the United States government to permit it to enter into commercial talks with Iranian airlines who could be buying billions of dollars of aircraft once sanctions are lifted.

US companies are still banned from doing business with Iran under sanctions imposed by the US government. The sanctions are expected to be lifted early next year but until then Boeing — and other US companies — have to wait.

Iran has said it estimates its commercial airliners will need as many as 400 new aircraft — including 150 long haul aircraft — over the next 20 years to replenish its ageing fleet. The Director of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, Mohammad Khodakarami, has said talks with leading manufacturers have started but Boeing says that’s not them.

“We’re still waiting on getting the go ahead from our government to still even have those kinds of discussions,” Ray Conner, Vice-Chairman of The Boeing Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told reporters on a visit to the manufacturer’s offices in Renton, Washington on Tuesday.

The Iranian carriers, particularly national airline Iran Air, boast an ageing fleet of Boeing aircraft that date back to the days of the Shah before the 1979 Revolution that led to sanctions being imposed on the country.

During the nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers, the US Treasury Department government granted Boeing a temporary license to sell aircraft parts to Iranian commercial airlines.

“We have a long history with Iran. We had a big presence there for a number of years,” Conner said.

Boeing is now anticipating there is going to be a significant demand for its aircraft when the sanctions are lifted.

Marty Bentrott, vice president — sales, Middle East, Russia & Central Asia at Boeing, told reporters he believes the Iranian carriers will have a preference to purchase Boeing aircraft because of the manufacturer’s “long standing relationship with Iran as a customer.”

“We believe there will be a good opportunity for us there and we believe there will be a good opportunity our competitors, and I think they will be looking at buying from both of us,” he said.