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Plane crash

July 15, 2009

The European Union has expressed its condolences to the people and government of Iran after an Iranian-owned airliner crashed on Wednesday, killing all 168 people on board.

A man stands among the wreckage of the Tupolev-154 aircraft.
Debris from the Caspian Airlines crash is scattered over hundreds of square metresImage: AP

"The presidency conveys its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those killed in this terrible incident," said a statement from Sweden, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The Caspian Airlines flight was carrying 153 passengers and 15 crew members when it crashed in Qazvin province, an Iranian health ministry spokesman told IRIB state radio.

An airline representative told Associated Press that most of the passengers were Armenians, with some Georgian citizens also on board. It was unclear if other nationalities were involved.

The fully-laden aircraft, a Russian-built Tupolev-154, was flying from Tehran to Yerevan, Armenia, when it crashed 16 minutes after take-off.

Witnesses said the three-engined plane dropped of out of the sky and exploded about 120 kilometers north-west of Tehran.

Images broadcast on Iranian state television showed a large crater at the disaster site littered with debris.

Aviation authorities said there were no immediate indications of the cause of the disaster.

Iran has suffered several major air disasters over the past decade. The nation's civil and military fleets are made up of elderly aircraft, many of which are in poor condition.

Trade embargoes by Western nations have forced Iranian airlines to buy mainly Russian-built aircraft to supplement their ageing fleets of American and European models.

Sanctions imposed by Washington in 1979 prevent Iran from acquiring new aircraft or spare parts if they contain a significant number of US-built components.


Editor: Neil King