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World leaders extend condolences

Nation mourns as Iran's president, FM and accompanying members killed in helicopter crash

China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-21 06:58
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Editor's note: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian died in a helicopter crash in the country's mountainous province of East Azerbaijan. China Daily looks at the transition process, as well as the condolences extended by leaders from across the globe.

A resident reads a newspaper with a report on the crash of the Iranian president's helicopter in Teheran on Monday. ATTA KENARE/AFP

TEHERAN — World leaders have extended condolences to Iran as the country on Monday mourns President Ebrahim Raisi's death in a helicopter crash.

The crash occurred on Sunday in Varzaqan County. The helicopter carrying Raisi was forced into a hard landing while navigating mountain terrain in heavy fog.

Raisi, along with his accompanying team on board three helicopters, was on his way from Khoda Afarin County — where he had attended the inauguration ceremony of a dam along with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev earlier in the day — to the provincial capital Tabriz for the inauguration of a petrochemical complex.

The other members onboard Raisi's helicopter, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Governor of East Azerbaijan Province Malek Rahmati, as well as the flight crew, also lost their lives.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of mourning and assigned Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber, 68, to assume interim duties ahead of elections within 50 days.

Khamenei urged Iranians on Sunday to "not worry" about the leadership of the nation, saying "there will be no disruption in the country's work".

The veteran nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri was on Monday named acting foreign minister to replace Amir-Abdollahian.

"We were very sad when we learned the news," said one Teheran resident Nabi Karam.

"Our president was a very good leader, may God bless him."

Iranian authorities first raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi's helicopter as it flew through a fog-shrouded mountain area of the Jolfa region.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi at first spoke of a "hard landing" and urged citizens to ignore hostile foreign media channels and get their information "only from state television".

As the sun rose on Monday, rescue crews said they had located the destroyed helicopter, with no survivors among the nine people on board.

State television channel IRIB reported that the helicopter had "hit a mountain and disintegrated" on impact.

Iran's Red Crescent chief Pirhossein Koolivand said its staff members were "transferring the bodies of the martyrs to Tabriz" and that "the search operations have come to an end".

Arhama Siddiqa, a research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in Pakistan, told China Daily: "Under the late President Raisi, Iran has adeptly navigated complex global diplomacy and economic challenges, including significant strides in its nuclear program and JCPOA negotiations."

She noted that Raisi's administration has not only made advancements in space technology, but "also capitalized on international sanctions to enhance domestic technologies in defense and nuclear sectors".

"We have also seen this period of strategic diplomatic and economic activity underscore how his foreign policy was premised on the belief that sustainable economic linkages are a precursor to regional development, growth and stability," she said.

Help pouring in

Foreign countries have been closely following the incident. Expressions of concern and offers of help had quickly come from countries, including China, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkiye, which offered their condolences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday hailed Raisi as an "outstanding politician" and said his death was an "irreplaceable loss".

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement on Monday that he is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Raisi.

US President Joe Biden was briefed about the search and the European Union activated its rapid response mapping service to aid in the search effort.

According to NBC News, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the intelligence authorities have informed him there is "no evidence of foul play" in the helicopter crash.

"It was very bad, foggy weather, northwest Iran where the copter crashed. So it looks like an accident, but it's still being fully investigated," Schumer said.

Israel was not involved in the death of Raisi, an Israeli official told Reuters on Monday.

"It wasn't us," said the official who requested anonymity.

International organizations and other countries also expressed concern over the incident and readiness to provide help.

The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Hissein Brahim Taha offered heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the government and people of Iran over the death of Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian and their accompanying delegation.

He "prayed to Allah to shower them with mercy and forgiveness, to admit them to paradise, and to grant their relatives the fortitude to bear the loss", according to a statement from the OIC.


Jan Yumul in Hong Kong and Jiang Xueqing in Tokyo contributed to this story.

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