A helicopter carrying the Iranian president makes a difficult landing: state television – Global News (Trending Perfect)

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi looks on during a press conference at the conclusion of his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, United States, on September 20, 2023.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Iranian official media reported that a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi made an “emergency landing” on Sunday, without immediately elaborating.

Raisi was traveling to East Azerbaijan Province in Iran. State television said that the accident occurred near the city of Julfa, located on the border with Azerbaijan, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

The Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Raisi was accompanied by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the governor of Iran's East Azerbaijan province, and other officials. A local government official used the word “crash” to describe the incident, but admitted to an Iranian newspaper that he had not yet arrived at the site himself.

Neither the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency nor state television provided any information about Raisi's condition.

State television said rescuers were trying to reach the site, but were hampered by bad weather conditions. Heavy rain and fog were reported with some wind. The Islamic Republic News Agency described the area as a “jungle.”

Raisi was in Azerbaijan early Sunday to open a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third built by the two countries on the Aras River. The visit came despite cold relations between the two countries, including an armed attack on the Azerbaijan embassy in Tehran in 2023, and diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Israel, which the Shiite theocracy in Iran considers its main enemy in the region.

Iran operates a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain spare parts for them. Its military air fleet dates back largely to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Raisi, 63, is an extremist who previously led the country's judiciary. He is seen as a disciple of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from office.

Raisi won Iran's 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic. The United States imposes sanctions on Raisi for reasons including his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody war between Iran and Iraq.

Under Raisi, Iran is now enriching uranium to near weapons-grade levels and obstructing international inspections. Iran has armed Russia in its war against Ukraine, and has also launched a large-scale attack with drones and missiles on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It has also continued to arm proxy groups in the Middle East, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanese Hezbollah.

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