Friday July 24 – the daily story

Plane crash kills 16 — Iran suffered another deadly plane accident today when a jet skidded off a runway into a wall at Mashad airport, killing 16 people and injuring 31 more. Some reports said the Russian-made Ilyushin 62M jet was making an emergency landing because of an unidentified technical hitch.  Ahmad Majidi, deputy transport minister, said: “Instead of landing at the beginning of the tarmac, the plane landed in the middle of the runway. Because the runway is short, it has gone off the end and crashed into the opposite wall.” Mohammad Ali Ilkhani, acting head of the  Civil Aviation Organisation, said on state TV that the plane also landed too fast – 200mph against the maximum safe speed of 165mph.  “We just heard a boom then the plane swerved to the right and then all I can remember were people praying,” a survivor told state TV. Pictures showed the entire front of the jet smashed away by the impact. Fireman also had to extinguish a fire on the jet after the crash. According to reports local villagers were on the scene to give assistance before the rescue services managed to attend. A woman passenger interviewed in hospital said: “It took the paramedics around 20 minutes to reach us; the ordinary people came to our aid first.”

The plane, which had come from Tehran, was being operated by Aria Airlines and the company’s managing director, Captain Mehdi Dadpei, was among the dead. It was carrying 153 passengers, three of whom died according to officials. The other deaths were among the mainly Kazakh crew. Officials said the plane was registered in Kazakhstan and chartered to Aria. They added that the airline’s licence has been revoked.  Qorban Ali Dori Najafabadi, the Prosecutor-General, warned of strong legal action against those responsible for Iran’s spate of aviation accidents. “The public expects authorities to act firmly against those liable for air disasters,” he said. AFP, LAT, PressTV

Mashaei quits — President Ahmadinejad has apparently bowed to the inevitable and accepted the resignation of Esfandiar Rahim Mashjaei, as first vice president, a week after appointing him. Ahmadinejad has spent all week stonewalling a growing clamour for Mashaei’s dismissal because of remarks he once made about Iranians being friends with the Israeli people. Ayatollah Khamenei expressly ordered him to cut Mashaei adrift, saying that the appointment was “contrary to your interests and the interests of the government, and will be a cause of division and distress among your supporters.” But the President pleaded for time to explain his appointment. However, as more criticism surfaced at various Friday prayers ceremonies yesterday, including a demonstration against Mashaei by hardline students in Tehran, and Iranian  television read out Khamenei’s instructions, he caved in. “After the announcement of the exalted supreme leader’s order, Mashaei does not consider himself first vice president,” Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, a presidential aide, declared. AP,  NYT

Habeus corpus, Iran style — Opposition websites have reported the death in Evin prison of Mohsen Ruholamini, who was arrested in demonstrations on July 9. His family had been told he would be returning home and there is no clue as to how he died. His father,  Abdolhossein Ruholamini, is an adviser to defeated presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards. NYT

In other news:

The US Senate has approved funds to help Iran’s opposition defeat curbs on news and Internet social networking sites. The Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (Voice) Act provides $30m to boost Radio Free Europe’s Persian-language broadcasts into Iran, and to counter the Iranian government’s efforts to block access to websites or text messages over cell phone networks. It allocates another $20m to create a special fund to develop ways for Iranians to get access to and share information and counter Tehran’s “efforts to block, censor, or monitor the Internet in Iran”, plus a further $5m for the State Department to gather and publicise information about human rights in Iran. dgsi.cn

After talks in London between Britain and Syria, David Miliband, British Foreign Secterary, said the UK was looking to Syria for support in trying to halt Iran’s nuclear programme. But Walid Muallem, the Syrian Foreign Minister, told a joint news conference that there needed to be a wider effort to remove nuclear weapons from the Middle east, including those held by Israel. Herald

The Revolutionary Guards are now the sole armed protector of the Islamic Revolution, Mohammad Ali Jafari, the guards’ commander, declared today.  “Based on the  constitution, the Islamic Revolution’s Guards Corps is the sole armed and organized supporter of the Revolution and its achievements,”he said. “Preparing to eradicate threats and demolish conspiracies (against the Islamic Republic) is one of the serious duties of the Guards Corps”. PressTV

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