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Iranian TV reports explosion near deylam
Updated: 2005-02-17 00:28

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian state television reported Wednesday that an explosion near the southwestern town of Deylam, about 110 miles from a nuclear facility, may have been caused by a fuel tank dropping from an Iranian plane. A government spokesman said the blast may have been caused by friendly fire.

Rescue teams were sent to the area, state-run al-Alam television said, without providing details on casualties. The network provided few details of the blast, but it said officials in the area said the cause may have been a fuel tank dropped from a plane. It did not offer more details.

A spokesman for Iran's Interior Ministry said the explosion was heard minutes after an Iranian airplane flew over the city and had not been caused by a hostile attack.

"An airplane flew over Deylam today. Minutes later, there was an explosion," spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani told The Associated Press.

"But we have no reason to say it's a hostile attack. There is a big possibility that it was a friendly fire by mistake. Several such mistaken friendly fire incidents have been reported there in recent days."

Khanjani said there was a military base at Bushehr and Iranian military aircraft routinely fly in that area.

Asked if military maneuvers were taking place in the region, he referred to the Defense Ministry, whose officials were not immediately available.

Israeli military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, quickly denied any connection with the explosion. In 1981, the Israeli air force destroyed a nuclear reactor the Iraqis were building near Baghdad.

Deylam, a port city in southwestern Iran, is north of the Bushehr nuclear facility.

Russia announced late last year it had completed most construction work at the Bushehr nuclear reactor but inside work was believed ongoing. Talks between Moscow and Tehran continue to drag on over shipping used nuclear fuel to Moscow, as a way to ensure it is not used to make nuclear weapons.

The United States fears that the $800 million Bushehr deal could help Tehran build nuclear weapons. Russia says that having Iran ship spent nuclear fuel back to Russia will make any such projects impossible.

International nuclear experts have expressed doubts that the protocol — which has been postponed repeatedly for close to four years — will be signed before the United Nations resolves ongoing foreign concerns over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, is investigating nearly two decades of covert nuclear activity by Iran. Tehran maintains its program is meant to generate electricity, but Washington claims it is a weapons program.

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