Britain and Canada issued warnings on Friday for travellers to avoid using the Imam Khomeini International Airport, which opened on Saturday, because of concerns the runway may be unsafe.

Iranian transport officials rejected the travel advisories and said the airport and runway had been inspected and approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Politicians ignored the dispute over safety and focused their ire on an alleged request by London that the name of the airport, dedicated to the founding father of the 1979 Islamic revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, be changed.

Sever ties call

"If Britain does not apologise to Iran, we will break all ties with that country and expel Britain's ambassador," said Hamid Reza Hajibabaei, a member of parliament's presiding board.

The UK was accused of asking
the airport's name to be changed

"If true, we should ... not allow any British nationals to enter our country and we should naturally cut economic ties with that country," said Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of the Kayhan newspaper.

The British embassy in Tehran rejected the accusation as "nonsense".

"We have never requested that the name of the airport be changed," said Charge d'Affaires Matthew Gould. "Our only consideration is for the safety of the runway."

Safety fears

He said Britain had received reports about the existence of ancient irrigation channels, known as qanats, beneath the runway that could impair its strength, and was urgently seeking reassurances from the ICAO and the Iranian government that corrective measures would be taken.

The first flights to and from the airport, 30 miles south of Tehran, began on Saturday with routes serving the nearby Gulf city of Dubai. Additional routes are to be transferred there from Tehran's Mehrabad International Airport in the coming months.

Dubai-based Emirates airline said on Saturday that it was satisfied the airport was safe.