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November 29, 2013 2:00 pm

U.S., Iran to Create Joint Chamber of Commerce, Resume Civilian Flights

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Iranian protesters in Tehran, in front of the former U.S. Embassy, on the anniversary of its 1979 takeover, in November 4, 2013. Photo: Screenshot / FARS.

Iranian protesters in Tehran, in front of the former U.S. Embassy, on the anniversary of its 1979 takeover, on November 4, 2013. Photo: Screenshot / FARS.

The U.S. and Iran are planning to create a joint chamber of commerce within a month and resume direct civilian flights between the two countries, an Iranian official told the Iran Daily on Wednesday, AFP reported.

An “Iran-U.S. chamber of commerce will be launched in less than one month,” Abolfazl Hejazi, a member of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, said in the newspaper, adding that the work underpinning the project had already been registered in the U.S.

Hejazi said the Iranian government has already authorized the private sector to work with American companies, while direct flights connecting Kish Island, in southwest Iran, with New York City were also in the works, AFP reported. Kish Island was chosen because it “is a free trade zone and Iranian passengers who have U.S. citizenship will not need to obtain visas to enter it,” he said.

Hejazi said direct flights would “enable us to export domestic products to the U.S. and import high-tech products and raw materials from the country.”

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After Iran’s 1979 revolution, Washington severed all diplomatic relations with Tehran. The “Death to America” chant, still heard in the streets of Tehran today, became a national slogan during the 1979 revolution, when Islamist students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and  held 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days.

The joint chamber of commerce and civilian flights would be the first concrete result from last weekend’s U.S.-brokered agreement between Iran and world powers in Geneva that unfroze billions in international assets held by the Islamic Republic and lifted sanctions for six-months in exchange for Iran agreeing to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into its secret nuclear facilities.

While the agreement was presented to the public as freezing Iran’s nuclear program, a closer reading of the details in the days since it was announced showed that a major contention — ending construction of the Arak enrichment plant — was not actually specified in the deal.

On Thursday, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said that inspectors would visit the plant on December 8, but that date had been set prior to the Geneva accord, within the framework of an existing bilateral agreement between Tehran and the IAEA, according to Iran’s FARS semi-official state news agency.

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