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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 11:07 GMT
No survivors in Iran plane crash
Scene of crash
The aircraft came down in mountains
Rescue teams in Iran have found parts of the military transport aircraft that crashed in the south-east of the country, and confirmed that there were no survivors.

There were 302 people, including 18 crew, on board the Russian-built Ilyushin plane on an internal flight from Zahedan to Kerman, making it Iran's worst plane crash.

Radio contact was lost shortly before the plane came down in bad weather, with the pilot speaking of strong winds.

All the passengers were members of the elite Republican Guards.

The Russian news agency Itar-Tass identified the plane as an Ilyushin Il-76 - a model originally designed in the late 1960s.

IRAN AIR CRASHES
40 people die when a new Ukrainian plane crashes into a mountain in Iran in December 2002
Russian-made Tu-154 airliner crashes into mountains in March 2002, killing 117 people
80 die when a military plane crashes in north-east Iran in March 1997
Tu-154 crashes into a military plane near Tehran in February 1993, killing 132

The plane lost contact with air traffic control at about 1730 local time (1400 GMT).

There had been heavy snow in the region.

"In his last radio contact, the pilot said 'I am trying to approach the airport; maybe the weather conditions will get better'.

"At that moment, the contact was lost," said Kerman state governor Mohammad Ali Karimi.

"Although the mountains are hard to reach and covered with snow, the relief workers have decided to find the bodies in the darkness of the night," said Ahmad Dabbagh-Zadeh, head of the Red Crescent in Kerman province.

The plane came down about 35km (22 miles) southeast of Kerman.

String of accidents

According to a local official in Zahedan, quoted by the Associated Press news agency, the Guards had been in the city to prepare for a visit by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Iranian cabinet, in a statement, has offered condolences to the nation and bereaved families over the "tragic event in which a group of IRGC [Revolutionary Guards] brothers" were killed.

The Guard, which was formed soon after the overthrow of the Shah and the creation of the Islamic republic more than 20 years ago, is seen as a staunch defender of Iran's Islamic regime.

IRNA said that some of the dead were believed to be senior security officials.

There has been a series of disasters in Iran involving mainly Russian-built planes.

Up to half of Iran's transport aircraft are believed to be of Russian design, and correspondents say they have a poor safety record.

US sanctions have left Iran increasingly dependent on an ageing fleet, acquired from the former Soviet Union.

Three of them have crashed in the past two years, killing an estimated 200 people.

The most recent disaster was in December when a new Ukrainian plane flew into a mountain, killing more than 40 scientists on board, as it was preparing to land in Isfahan, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of the capital Tehran.





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The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Officials say bad weather may have been a factor"



SEE ALSO:
Iran plane crash victims found
24 Dec 02 |  Middle East
Iran plane crash kills 117
12 Feb 02 |  Middle East
Country profile: Iran
28 Dec 02 |  Country profiles


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