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Iran's Khatami prays for twins as separation begins
( 2003-07-07 17:12) (Agencies)

Iran's President Mohammed Khatami has said the whole country is praying for a successful outcome in the operation to separate conjoined twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani.

Khatami said all of Iran was praying for the twins and the surgical team in Singapore. [File Photo]

The 29-year-old sisters, joined at the head since birth, began surgery in Singapore Sunday at the start of an unprecedented marathon operation that could last as long as four days.

In a message read out of on state television on the same day, Khatami said he was praying both for the twins and the international medical team that has gathered in Singapore for the operation.

Coverage of the Bijani sisters' progress has dominated news channels in Iran since the countdown to surgery began.

"Now that an elite group of surgeons have started one of the most important operations of time... I, with a heart full of hope, eagerly pray that Almighty God will help this great work to be successfully accomplished," the state-run IRNA news quoted Khatami as saying.

Some of the more than 100 medical personnel work during an operation to separate conjoined Iranian twins Ladan and Laheh Bijani yesterday in Singapore. The 29-year-old sisters were born joined at the head. [EastDay.com]

Referring to the twins as "my beloved children" he said he was looking forward to welcoming Ladan and Laleh back to Iran very soon.

"I wish to see 'dear and patient' Laleh and Ladan healthy and cheerful among us very soon, and I am sure that the prayers of the Iranian people will help the success of the operation," Khatami said.


On Monday the Iranian ambassador from the embassy in Jakarta, the nearest to diplomatic mission to Singapore, is due to fly in to deliver a personal message from the Iranian leader to the medical team giving his praise and appreciation for the job they are doing.

The $288,000 cost of the surgery is being underwritten by Singapore's Raffles Hospital and the doctors involved have all waived their fees.

"We are happy. We are hopeful and optimistic. We have full trust in the medical team," said Reza Rezaie, second secretary of the Iranian mission in Jakarta.

Ladan (L) and Laleh Bijani, a pair of conjoined twins from Iran, attend a news conference at Raffles Hospital in Singapore June 11, 2003. [Reuters]

Rezaie said the parents of the twin sisters would not be able to go to Singapore as they were both over 80 years old and it was too difficult for them to travel.

Laleh and Ladan, who were born in Firouzabad in southern Iran in 1974, have also received support from Singapore's small Iranian community, many of whom have donated blood to the city-state's national blood bank.

If the operation is successful the sisters will be the first conjoined adult twins to be separated.

The risks are considered extremely high and could result in the death of one or both of the sisters.

However, they have both said they are prepared to accept the risks for the chance to live their lives as separate individuals to be able to look each other in the face after 29 years.

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