WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has lifted a decades-old ban on the export of civilian passenger aircraft to Iran as Tehran prepares to see sanctions relief.

President Obama delegated that authority to Secretary of State John Kerry through a presidential memorandum, a directive similar to an executive order.

The historic decision comes against the backdrop of planned implementation of Iran’s historic nuclear deal with world powers at the weekend.

“They have nearly completed their major nuclear steps, and that's nothing to gloss over,” US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.

He added that the decision would take effect as soon as the nuclear agreement is implemented and international sanctions are lifted on Iran.

“The [nuclear] agreement makes two exceptions: Iran can buy U.S. civilian passenger aircraft, and sell certain crafts – specifically carpets and rugs – to the United States,” USA Today reported.

US sanctions ban the sale of aircraft and parts to Iran. Under an interim nuclear deal in 2013, the West eased the ban on sales of spare parts but selling planes is still prohibited.