Rescue operation after Iran's president involved in helicopter crash

A helicopter carrying the president of Iran has apparently crashed after getting into difficulties in poor weather conditions.

President Ebrahim Raisi was travelling in a helicopter near Jolfa, on the border with Azerbaijan, when he was involved in a "hard landing", according to state television.

A rescue operation is underway and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged people to pray for President Raisi's health.

“We hope that Almighty God will return the esteemed and beloved President and his companions to the embrace of the nation," he said.

"The Iranian nation should not worry or be anxious; no disruption will occur in the country’s affairs.”

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other officials were also in the helicopter, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Rescuers were attempting to reach the site, state TV said, but had been hampered by poor weather condition in the area. There had been heavy rain reported with some wind.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Credit: AP

President Raisi had been in Azerbaijan early on Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River.

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

President Raisi, 63, is a hardliner who formerly led the country’s judiciary. He is viewed as a protégé 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 the role.

He won Iran's 2021 presidential election, a vote that saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.

Raisi is sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.

Under Raisi, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections.

Iran has armed Russia in its war against Ukraine, as well as launched a massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel amid its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

It also has continued arming proxy groups in the Mideast, like Yemen's Houthi rebels and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

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