Free parking is hard to find in Washington — but not, apparently, for the Boeing 747 that ferried Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to this week’s United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York.
That plane, emblazoned with the “Iran Air” logo, was parked Wednesday at Joint Base Andrews — the same air field where Air Force One is stored. In fact, President Obama taxied past the Iranian jet on his way to two campaign events in Ohio.
It is common for foreign heads of state to park their aircraft at Joint Base Andrews when visiting the U.S., according to Major Michelle Lai, a spokeswoman for the 89th Airlift Wing.
Lai said there are several such planes parked at Andrews now because of the ongoing U.N. meeting.
“Normally their aircraft will drop off the heads of state at the given location and they’ll position here and wait until the summit ends,” she said. “It’s for security in general. It’s easier to provide security on an Air Force installation for any foreign aircraft than it is at a commercial airport.”
It’s also free, Lai said. Unlike commercial airports, the federal government does not charge foreign governments to park their planes.
Lai did not know whether special security considerations were being taken to guard the Iranian plane.
In his own speech to the U.N. on Monday, Obama said time is running out for a diplomatic solution with Iran. He echoed his previous position that the U.S. is committed to stopping Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” he said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of gulf nations and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Ahmadinejad spoke Wednesday morning, criticizing “arrogant powers.” In an earlier interview with the Associated Press, he called for a new world order and an end to “U.S. bullying.”
Gardner reported from Bowling Green, Ohio. Ashley Halsey III in Washington contributed to this report.