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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iran's plane with high ranking officials aboard forced to land in Istanbul

TEHRAN, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- An Iranian Boeing 707 aircraft carrying high ranking officials was forced to land in Turkish largest city of Istanbul on Wednesday, Iran's local Fars news agency reported.

The Istanbul control tower found the Iranian flight, which was heading back to Tehran from Venezuela's capital city of Caracas, and demanded the plane land in Istanbul airport immediately, the report said.

The flight has been under detention since 3:30 a.m. (0030 GMT),the report said, adding that the Turkish side failed to serve any meal and water for the passengers on board who had been exhausted due to the long-time flight, it added.

People on board, comprising several ministers, deputy ministers, members of parliament, experts and some journalists, were accompanying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his tour of Senegal, Cuba and Venezuela.

Due to the U.S. refusal to issue entry visas for them, the delegation was not able to attend the 61st United Nations General Assembly meeting and had to return home.

No Turkish official accepted the responsibility for the incident, said the report.

The incident drew strong reaction from the Iranian government immediately. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arabian and African Affairs Mohammad Reza Bagheri, who is among the passengers of the flight, said that his ministry had summoned the Turkish Ambassador to express Iran's strong protest to the measure.

Iran's Foreign Ministry also urged the Turkish Ambassador to make up for their "illegitimate and illegal measure, solve the problem immediately and apologize to the Iranian senior official son board the plane", according to the report.
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