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Helicopter carrying Iranian president suffers ‘hard landing’, state TV says

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a “hard landing” on Sunday, Iranian state media reported, without immediately providing further details.

Raisi was traveling in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan. State television said the incident occurred near Jolfa, a border town with Azerbaijan, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials were traveling with Raisi, the official IRNA news agency reported. A local government official used the word “crash” to describe the incident, but admitted to an Iranian newspaper that he had not yet reached the site itself.

Neither IRNA nor state television provided information on Raisi’s condition.

Rescuers were trying to reach the site, state television said, but were hampered by poor weather conditions. Heavy rain and fog were reported with some wind. IRNA described the area as a “forest.”

Raisi was in Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. This is the third dam built by the two nations on the Aras River. This visit took place despite cold relations between the two countries, notably following a gun attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran in 2023, and Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, which the Iranian Shiite theocracy considers it its main enemy in the region.

Iran flies various helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain spare parts. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Raisi, 63, is a hardliner who once ran the country’s justice system. He is considered a protégé of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation.

Raisi won Iran’s 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic. Raisi is sanctioned by the United States in part for his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq War.

Under Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium to levels close to weapons manufacturing and obstructs international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war against Ukraine and launched a massive drone and missile attack on Israel as part of its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also continued to arm proxy groups in the Middle East, such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.


Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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News Source : apnews.com

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