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September 23, 2009

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Air force plane crash kills seven

IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday that Iran is stronger than ever and warned that its military will "cut the hand" of anyone who attacks. But a military parade where he spoke was marred when an air force plane crashed, killing seven people, according to state radio.

State TV showed video footage of burning wreckage from the military plane surrounded by fire trucks in farmlands south of the capital Tehran.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash, but the Iranian military - as well as its civilian airlines - have been plagued by lethal accidents. The crashes are blamed in part on United States sanctions that make it difficult for Iran to get spare parts. Experts have also said airlines are strapped for cash and often have poor maintenance.

State radio and television did not specify the type of plane that crashed, saying only it was used for transport. The air force show included US-made jet fighters and bombers acquired by Iran before its 1979 Islamic Revolution, as well as more recently acquired Russian aircraft and Iran's domestically built fighter, known as the Saeqeh, or Thunderbolt.

The air show was part of a military parade held on Tehran's southern outskirts showing off anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems that Iran bought from Russia in 2007 to protect its nuclear facilities.

Iran's military readiness is such that "no power dares imagine an invasion against Iran," Ahmadinejad said. "The Iranian nation will resist all invaders."

"Our armed forces will cut the hand of anyone in the world before it pulls the trigger against the Iranian nation," he said.

The US and its allies accuse Iran of secretly seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge and says it's for peaceful purposes only.


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