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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 16:25 GMT
Iran blamed over Tehran air crash
Woman crying after identifying body of a relative killed in air crash
Relatives have spent the day identifying the remains
The authorities in Iran are facing bitter criticism over Tuesday's crash of an ageing military transport plane that killed about 110 people.

Reports say the plane had experienced technical problems all morning, causing the take-off to be delayed for hours.

Iranian media also say the pilot had asked twice to return to Mehrabad airport to make an emergency landing, but was refused because it was busy.

Military officials have strongly denied any suggestion of negligence.

On Wednesday, Tehran's prosecutor said that a court nearby the airport would investigate the crash.

"We have given the airport court the task of following up this subject, so that, if anyone is to blame in this connection, they can be identified," Said Mortazavi said.

"If people who should have performed their legal duties committed any negligence, it will be investigated and the result will be made public after the initial stages."

No black box

But the investigation will not be aided by a black box - the data collection devices usually mounted in the tail of an aircraft.

The deputy commander of the Iranian army, Brig Gen Mohammad Hasan Nami, said Iranian military aircraft were not equipped with the devices.

How much longer are we going to play with lives? How much longer do we have to use planes that should be sent to the scrap heap?
Tehran councillor Rasul Khadem
Brig Gen Nami also rejected accusations that the plane was allowed to take off in spite of technical problems.

"It is not possible to say that the aircraft took off with a mechanical problem, because aircrafts are thoroughly checked the day before the flight," he said.

The C-130 came down in a densely-populated residential district of south-west Tehran and ploughed into a 10-storey apartment block, setting it on fire.

Among those killed were 68 journalists being flown to the southern city of Bandar Abbas to report on military exercises.

The Iranian culture minister, Mohammad Hoseyn Saffar-Harandi, called the crash a "disaster for the journalistic community" and declared a day of mourning.

Technical problems

Iran's media has been scathing about the lack of adequate safety checks said to be a widespread issue in Iran.

The wife of a photographer who was killed in the crash, Mohammad Karbalai, told the conservative Hamshahri newspaper that she had spoken to him shortly before the plane took off.

"The plane should have taken off at seven in the morning. My husband called me from the plane at eight to say there were technical problems. I was very worried," she said.

"I called him back at 10 o'clock, and the plane was still on the ground. He said the pilot was refusing to take off because of technical problems."

A Hamshahri editorial demanded that the authorities explain why a plane said to have technical problems was authorised to take off.

It also pointed out that the "aeroplane had requested an emergency landing twice yesterday and the control tower didn't issue landing permission".

In the reformist Sharq newspaper, Rasul Khadem, a member of Tehran City Council, attacked the military for taking unnecessary risks.

"How much longer are we going to play with lives? How much longer do we have to use planes that should be sent to the scrap heap?" Mr Khadem said.

Military dismisses 'rumours'

The BBC's correspondent in Tehran, Frances Harrison, says some unconfirmed reports claim the pilot himself was unhappy about the condition of the plane and the same plane nearly crashed in the desert a week ago.

Feb 04: Iranian plane crashes near Sharjah airport in UAE, killing 43 people
Feb 03: Military transport aircraft crashes in southern Iran, killing 302 people
Dec 02: Commuter plane carrying aerospace experts crashes in Iran, killing 46 people
Feb 02: Tu-154 operated by Iran Air crashes in mountains in west of Iran, killing 117 people
March 97: 80 die when a military plane crashes in north-east Iran
Feb 93: Tu-154 crashes into a military plane near Tehran, killing 132

Its engines had to be switched on and off five times before it could take off on its final flight, she says.

Army officials have strongly denied any negligence and because this was a military flight, many people are wary about asking tough questions about their safety procedures, our correspondent says.

The Iranian air force is believed to have about 15 US-made C-130s in operation, dating back to before the 1979 Islamic revolution and the US boycott of Iran.

The country's civil and military aircraft have a poor safety record.

In 2003, an Iranian Ilyushin-76 troop carrier crashed in south-east Iran killing all 276 Revolutionary Guard soldiers and crew aboard.

Officials blame the high frequency of crashes on a lack of aviation spare parts due to US sanctions.

Heavy-lift transport aircraft built by Lockheed Martin, known as the Hercules in the UK
Iran has some 15 C-130 E and H types dating from the mid-1970s
A modern US variant is the AC-130 - a heavily armed gunship version - used in Iraq and Afghanistan
First flew: 1956
Max. take off weight: 69,750kg
Engines: 4 Allison turboprops
Range: 2,356 miles

Source: FAS/GlobalSecurity

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