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29 Killed In Iranian Jet Crash

An Iranian passenger plane skidded off the runway and smashed its wing on the ground, sparking a fire as it landed in the northeastern city of Mashhad on Friday, killing 29 people, Iran's aviation chief said.

His comments corrected an earlier report of 80 dead, which had come from state-run television.

The plane, carrying 148 people, slid off the runway, "then its left wing hit the ground and caught fire," Nourollah Rezai Niaraki, chairman of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, said in an interview on state television. 

The flight, by Iran Airtour, which is affiliated to Iran's national air carrier, originated in Bandar Abbas, in the south of the country.

Footage at Mashhad's airport showed rescue workers carrying bodies on stretchers from the badly charred central portion of the plane. The aircraft did not appear to be on fire, but firefighters doused its engines using hoses. Dozens of bodies lay nearby covered with blankets.

Iran has frequent plane accidents and has several times blamed them on U.S. sanctions that it says make it difficult to import spare parts, even from Europe. The West offered to open the door to sales of new planes and spare parts in an incentive package aimed at getting it to roll back its nuclear program.

Mashhad, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) northeast of Tehran, is visited by 12 million people annually on pilgrimage to its Shiite Islamic shrines.

In December 2005, a military C-130 loaded with Iranian journalists crashed into a 10-story apartment building in a Tehran suburb as the pilot attempted an emergency landing after developing engine trouble, killing 115 people -- 94 in the plane and 21 on the ground.

In April 2005, an Iranian military Boeing 707 with 157 people aboard skidded off a runway at Tehran airport and caught fire, killing three people. In 2003, a Russian-made Il-76 carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people.

In 2002, a Ukrainian-built aircraft carrying aerospace scientists crashed in central Iran, killing all 44 people aboard.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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