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Iranian Revolution Anniversary Celebrations Start with Opening of Khomeini Airport - 2004-02-01

Iranian officials began celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Sunday by opening a new airport named after the revolutionary cleric and leader, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Imam Khomeini International Airport is located about 45 kilometers from Tehran, and officials say that once complete, it will have the capacity to handle 40 million passengers a year.

Construction of the airport began 30 years ago and cost several hundred million dollars. Only one terminal is open, and the next stage in the construction is expected to take two years.

Although serious back pain forced Iran's President Mohammad Khatami to cancel a meeting with his parliament Saturday over the current election crisis, he was able to speak at the inauguration of the new airport.

The opening of the airport coincides with the date that Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran from exile in 1979.

Officials say all international flights will be shifted from the Mehrabad airport in Tehran to the new airport within the next few months.