The United States has issued a license allowing Boeing to do business with Iran for the first time since the U.S. embargo of 1979, a company spokesman told AFP Friday.

The license covers a "limited period of time" and allows Boeing only "to provide them spare parts that are for safety purposes."

Boeing will still not be allowed to sell new planes to Iran, the spokesman said.

The license was granted by the U.S. Treasury Department in the context of an interim deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program signed in November, the spokesman added.

At the end of February, another U.S. company, General Electric, indicated it had requested permission to sell spare airliner parts to Iran, but so far it has not received a response.

The United States and European nations have imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran in recent years aiming to pressure Tehran to reduce permanently, or at least long term, the scope of its nuclear activities to make it extremely difficult for it ever to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has always denied any such ambition.

The sanctions were partially lifted in January, after Iran agreed to freeze a part of its contested program.

The West and Tehran are currently negotiating a definitive agreement which would guarantee Iran's nuclear program would be peaceful, and would ultimately lead to all sanctions being lifted.

Washington severed diplomatic relations with Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]