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February 27, 2010

Libya\’s Gaddafi calls for holy war on Switzerland

Libya’s Gaddafi calls for holy war on Switzerland

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

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Gaddafi by Agência Brasil.
Image: Antônio Milena.

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has called for Muslims to declare jihad against Switzerland, citing the recent Swiss ban on the construction of new minarets at mosques. Libya and Switzerland have been in a diplomatic dispute since the Swiss arrested one of Gaddafi’s sons in 2008. Gaddafi now states he would invade if the two shared a common border.

Yesterday, the Colonel addressed a gathering in Benghazi to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. During the speech, which The New York Times described as ‘rambling,’ he said that “[t]hose who destroy God’s mosques deserve to be attacked through Jihad, and if Switzerland was on our borders, we would fight it.” He called on Muslim nations to reject entry from Swiss ships and aircraft, and asked Muslims to boycott goods from Switzerland.

Libya has already recalled its diplomats and withdrawn its money from Switzerland. Oil shipments were disrupted, and two Swiss nationals were prevented from leaving Libya. One was released earlier this week after being detained for nineteen months, and the other remains in a Libyan jail, serving a four-month ‘reduced’ sentence. All these measures followed the arrest of Hannibal Gaddafi and his wife under suspicion of assaulting their servants.

In response to a recent Swiss implementation of travel restrictions on Gaddafi and his relatives, Libya barred most of Europe from entering (totaling 25 countries). Last November, the Swiss voted to amend the constitution to prevent the construction of new minarets. This was the reasoning Gaddafi presented for his latest comments.

Spain and Italy have been attempting to mediate the dispute since the barring of European entry to Libya. The European Union has been “working closely with Switzerland to reach a diplomatic solution,” and says the timing of Gaddifi’s proclamation is “unfortunate.” France and the United Nations said Gaddafi’s words were unacceptable.

Gaddafi, who has a harem of young female bodyguards and a reputation for outlandish eccentricity, has been met with negative reactions from Muslims in Switzerland. “In my opinion, this is a purely political matter between Libya and Switzerland, and has nothing to do with Islam or with Muslims,” said the head of the mosque in Geneva. Yasar Ozdemir of the Swiss Federation of Muslim Associations said he was unsurprised by Gaddafi’s “nonsense.”



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February 12, 2010

Reports issued after jets collided twice in same spot at UK airport

Reports issued after jets collided twice in same spot at UK airport

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Friday, February 12, 2010

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The United Kingdom’s Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) has issued two reports today into collisions between jetliners in the same spot at Manchester Airport. None of the 468 passengers caught in the incidents, which were in separate years, were injured.

The first report concerned an incident in 2007 in which a Pakistan International Airways Boeing 777 struck a Flybe Bombardier Q400. The 777 was trying to turn in behind the Q400 onto the taxiway when its wingtip struck the smaller aircraft’s rudder.

The 777’s pilot had been “cautioned about the presence” of Flybe’s plane, according to the AAIB. The pilot stated that he believed he had sufficient room to manoeuvre and that he expected a further warning were this not the case. The aircraft were later able to continue on their journeys.

The second report issued today involves the exact same location, this time scene of a collision in 2008. A Boeing 737 operated by now-defunct Spanish airline Futura was instructed to “give way”; this confused the flight crew of the Tenerife-bound plane and it moved forward, one wingtip striking the tail of a Lufthansa Airlines Airbus A320 destined for Frankfurt.

The Futura flight crew had believed they had an unobstructed path with plenty of space to clear the A320. The AAIB recommended that Manchester’s air traffic controllers stop using the phrase “give way” and instead state “hold position”. Procedures have already been changed at Manchester in light of the collisions.



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February 3, 2010

Concorde crash trial begins

Concorde crash trial begins – Wikinews, the free news source

Concorde crash trial begins

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

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Concorde, a joint Anglo-French project, withdrawn from service in 2003.

A French court Tuesday launched the trial of five men and a US airline over the Concorde disaster. 113 people were killed when the supersonic jet struck a hotel near Paris in 2000.

The prosecution case agrees with the facts set out in the final accident report, which, by international law, was written from an entirely different investigation and thus cannot be introduced in court. It alleges that improper maintenance of an American airliner and failure to detect design flaws with the Concorde were responsible for the Air France jet’s crash, to an extent that makes the six defendants guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Both official investigations found that a Continental Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had taken off five minutes before Concorde with an improvised repair. A metal strip had been machined by mechanics instead of using a certified part. This strip dropped off the aircraft, leaving a 43cm (17in) piece of titanium on the runway.

Prosecutors and investigators concluded that as Concorde struck the part on takeoff a tyre burst and ripped apart, sending chunks of rubber flying. A large piece slammed into the underside of the wing hard enough to trigger a pressure wave that ruptured the fuel tank. Damaged wiring is believed to have been responsible for igniting this, creating a trailing fireball as the aircraft took off bound for New York.

Concorde’s pilots attempted to circle round for an emergency landing back at Charles de Gaulle Airport, but instead struck a hotel approximately three kilometres (two miles) from the airport. All 109 passengers and crew were on board, as well as four people in the hotel, were killed. The majority of victims were Germans heading to meet up with a cruise liner for a Caribbean holiday, the remainder of the 100 passengers were from Austria.

John Taylor, the Continental mechanic who is alleged to have built and fitted the nonstandard part, and his boss Stanley Ford, have been targeted for prosecution. Both individuals and their employer deny responsibility. Also charged are two members of the UK-French firm behind Concorde – Aérospatiale, who have since merged into Airbus parent EADS. Henri Perrier was head of testing for Concorde and the aircraft’s chief engineer was Jacques Herubel; both have been charged for a perceived failure to locate and rectify design flaws with Concorde. The former chief of civil aviation, Claude Frantzen, is facing charges on the same basis.

Each individual can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to €50,900 (US$71,000. Continental face a fine of up to €375,000 (US$520,000). The airline’s defence claims the part on the runway had no role to play in the accident. TV channel Canal+ previously suggested the investigations and prosecution were a coverup of more serious issues with Concorde.

Cquote1.svg Nothing was allowed to disturb Air France […] orders came from very high in the administration Cquote2.svg

—Michel Bourgeois, air accident investigator

The broadcast alleged Concorde erupted into flames long before getting as far down the runway as the strip. Continental’s lawyers say they can call 28 witnesses to give similar evidence and told the Le Parisien that they would seek a dismissal of the charges today. The case opened with judge Dominique Andreassier reading out every one of the 113 names of the deceased, followed by the charges against the six, in the court in Pontoise.

There are 80,000 pages of documents to be presented at trial, and 543 items are to be presented as evidence. The case is split into 90 volumes and is expected to take four months. The judge cautioned against losing touch with the human aspect of what is anticipated to be a very technical trial. The estimated cost is expected to be in excess of 3 million Euro (US$4.2 million).

The investigation found some contributory causes that can be linked to Air France. Four days before the crash an important tyre spacer was left off the Concorde by mechanics, and the plane was overloaded. The airport itself was also criticised for having cancelled a scheduled sweep of the runway. Air France lawyer Fernand Garnault, an aviation specialist, was adamant that Continental did play the main role in the accident; “[i]t is clear that a piece from a Continental plane fell on the runway. It is clear that the origin of the accident was this. This is my personal conviction and of course that of Air France.”

Few families are represented at the trial, because all the passengers struck a deal with Air France to accept compensation in exchange for waiving their right to take legal action, leaving only those killed in the hotel and the crew. However, French group Fenvac are representing the families, and spokesman Stephane Gicquel said that the families would be observing keenly, that “[t]his tragedy is part of their personal history and of their family history.”

Captain Christian Marty’s family’s lawyer, Roland Rappaport, said outside court today that, “[t]his accident should have been avoided. The weaknesses of the Concorde had been known for twenty years,” while Air France’s lawyers stated the inquiries had not located any evidence to suggest that Concorde had indeed encountered problems before reaching the metal debris.

Daniel Soulez Larivière, who represents Frantzen, said, “this accident was unforeseeable,” and the original investigations should have agreed. Concorde suffered a string of similar incidents in the 1970s including one in Washington that came close to triggering a fire. “They [the authorities] wanted to protect Concorde, the image of France that it projected. They should have stopped service then [1979],” said Olivier Metzner, representing Continental. The plane was not grounded until after the accident, although it returned to service before being retired in 2003.

Metzner told the court that former French air accident investigator Michel Bourgeois was to be a key witness. Bourgeois recently alleged that authorities were indeed hiding flaws with the airliner, saying “[n]othing was allowed to disturb Air France […] orders came from very high in the administration,” and that investigations into Concorde’s safety were shut down by the government.



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  • “Continental Airlines to face charges over Air France Concorde disaster” — Wikinews, July 3, 2008

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January 26, 2010

Italian chocolatemaker Ferrero rules out buying UK\’s Cadbury

Italian chocolatemaker Ferrero rules out buying UK’s Cadbury

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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Italian chocolatemaker Ferrero has ruled out making a bid to purchase United Kingdom confectioners Cadbury. The move comes after Cadbury’s board recommended accepting a takeover bid by United States firm Kraft that valued the company at £11.9 billion sterling.

Ferrero is best known for its Rocher branded chocolates and the advertisements that accompany them. It had been rumoured that the Italians would team up with another US firm, Hershey, to submit a joint bid for Cadbury. However, on Friday Hershey decided not to attempt to purchase Cadbury, who are most famous for Dairy Milk chocolates.

Both companies had been given yesterday as their deadline to declare their intentions regarding their British rival. Kraft now seem likely to achieve their aim of buying up the confectioner, after four months of negotiations and an offer that was increased twice. Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 said Ferrero had backed out because of the amount of debt they would need to take on and a perceived requirement for job cuts.

Kraft are offering 500p cash per Cadbury share, plus Kraft stock. However, if some investors accept extra Kraft shares then up to 799p. The deal gives Cadbury a total value of 837p, down from the 850p orignally offered due to fluctuations in the exchange rate between the United States dollar and the pound sterling. “The final offer’s value will change as the Kraft Foods share price and the USD/GBP exchange rate change,” explained Kraft.

Jeremy Batstone-Carr, an analyst with Charles Stanley, said British stock investors were likely to not want Kraft shares. “UK-based investors are unlikely to want to hold Kraft stock… We believe that as many as half these holders… will be looking for alternative investment destinations here in the UK.” Shareholders have until February 2 to consider the offer. If they accept, Cadbury will cease to be an independant company, which it has been since it was founded in 1824.



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Marine scientist says Australia\’s blobfish faces extinction

Marine scientist says Australia’s blobfish faces extinction

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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The blobfish
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Callum Roberts, a marine scientist with the Universtiy of York, has said he believes the blobfish to face extinction. The foot-long creature is under threat by bottom fishing trawlers off the southeastern Australian coast.

“The Australian and New Zealand deep trawling fishing fleets are some of the most active in the world so if you are a blobfish then it is not a good place to be,” said Roberts. The blobfish has never been observed outside of this small patch of ocean.

Blobfish, which are gelatinous, are rarely seen by humans owing to the depths they live at, going down as far as 800 metres. However, this area is shared by edible species such as crabs and lobsters and trawlers come in search of these. Inedible blobfish are dragged up with them.

Roberts, author of The Unnatural History of the Sea, explains that deep trawling is one of the world’s most destructive forms of fishing. He said that trawlers had destroyed large swathes of ocean at the 200 metre mark and were now “mov[ing] off those continental shelves and into the deep sea in areas a couple of thousand metres deep.” He described this as overfishing.

He went on to express concern for the worldwide effect of deep trawling, saying that the area of deep sea explored is “about the size of Paris, [deep seas]’s a really unexplored area, but we could be destroying it.”

He explained that previous efforts had been made to pass international law introducing regulations on deep trawling. “In 2006 conservationists came very close to achieving a global moratorium on restricting bottom trawling on the high seas.” Although activists “came within a whisker of that” they were thwarted by “Iceland [who] rejected it so the United Nations was charged with protecting the deep sea species.”

Roberts said that “Blobfish are very vulnerable to being dragged up in these nets.” The Daily Telegraph described the blobfish as “the world’s most miserable-looking fish,” and commented that the creature “ha[s] plenty to be miserable about.”



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Unreported tainted milk incident publicised in China

Unreported tainted milk incident publicised in China

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shelves lie bare in China after the 2008 recall

The health department in Guizhou province, China has ordered three batches of milk products to be removed from sale after the discovery they contain melamine. In 2008 six children were killed by milk contaminated with the chemical and 300,000 fell ill.

The department has suspended all sales from the three companies involved. Last November, two men were executed for their roles in selling milk tainted with the chemical, which was largely distributed by Samlu Corp, a company that has since been liquidised. The executed convicts mixed up batches totalling hundreds of tonnes of melamine-tainted milk, and were among 21 people successfuly prosecuted over the contamination. Chinese dairy products were withdrawn around the world.

The latest finds have gone unreported for nearly a year before a provincial news service reported on the tainted products from Shandong Zibo Lusaier Dairy Co., Liaoning Tieling Wuzhou Food Co. and Laoting Kaida Refrigeration Plant. This was then picked up today by China Daily, meaning it has only now come to the world’s attention. No specifics are available other than that popsicles are involved.

Early 2009 would place the discoveries and recalls shortly after the government anounced a crackdown on malpractice in the dairy industry. Recently, two other reports have emerged of tainted milk being discovered elsewhere in China, including Shanghai.

It is uncertain why this is only now becoming public knowledge, althought the Shanghai case was said to be complicated by crossing provincial borders. There, reports emerged on New Year’s Eve although the actual news dated back to April.

After the 2008 milk scandal new food safety legislation was passed. These new laws made room for more vigourous testing and stronger recall arrangements. The government made it clear that coverups were intolerable. At the time, 22 companies were indentified as being involved in melamine-contamination in milk.

Two dairies recently named in state media as behind more recent incidents were on that original list, including Laoting Kaida and Shanghai Panda Dairy Co. Media reports suggest that the newer problem may have been that milk containing melimine that was never destroyed from the original discovery was then repackaged.

The companies involved have stated that they bought in raw milk without realising it contained the poisonous chemical. China Daily quoted an official as saying the same thing. It also stated an ex-dairy industry official had said that it was probable that further milk containing illegally high levels of the substance remained available to the Chinese consumer.

News organisations have tried contacting the companies involved and authorities in Guizhou province but with little success. This trend was bucked by the Agence France-Presse, who reached Guizhou’s health department, only to be told the reports were not correct.

Melamine has a high nitrogen content which can make watered-down milk seem to contain extra protein. It is intended for use in manufacturing industries, in products such as concrete, plastic and fertiliser. Large quantities can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.



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Dubai World refused permission to use QE2 as floating hotel in Cape Town

Dubai World refused permission to use QE2 as floating hotel in Cape Town

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The QE2

RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (the QE2) will not be sailing to Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town has refused the vessel permission to berth for use by owner Dubai World as a floating hotel.

The Transnet National Ports Authority said that the famed vessel is much too large for Cape Town and that the facilites for the ship do not exist. Dubai World had hoped the ocean liner could serve as a hotel to accommodate football fans attending the World Cup and had previously told the Associated Press that Cape Town was among several possible destinations. No others have been named.

Transnet National Ports Authority port manager Sanjay Govan commented that “It’s the length of stay that was an issue … They wanted to stay much longer than just the World Cup. You have to sacrifice a normal cargo-working berth for such an operation. You wouldn’t do that for such a long time.” Dubai World has confirmed the trip to South Africa is off. South Africa’s Protea Hotels were thought to have won a contract to perform the management of the hotel during its stay in Cape Town. Dubai World also considered private terminals but met the same issue.

Dubai World’s investment arm Istithmar World paid Cunard US$100 million for the British liner in 2007. Since then it has been moored off Dubai’s Port Rashid, having arrived in the emirate in 2008. Original plans were to create a luxury floating hotel for tourists that would be moored beside an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree, but this idea was cancelled in the wake of global market uncertainty.

State-owned conglomerate Dubai World is currently in severe financial difficulties. The firm is seeking an extra six months to pay at least US$22 million in debts and the government has supported a six month delay as the first step towards a restructuring plan. Dubai World’s main units Nakheel and Limitless are the most indebted companies. World markets and media reacted sharply to the revelations on November 25 last year.

Dubai World is rumoured to need to sell assets, including the Queen Elizabeth 2. The company has refused to confirm or deny this, only stating that “There are a number of options being considered for the QE2. Istithmar World is considering which option will best maximise value of the vessel.”

The same year as the Queen Elizabeth 2 the conglomerate also obtained Barneys New York, a luxury retailer based in the United States. Istithmar World paid US$942.3 million for the company. Istithmar World chief executive David Jackson resigned last week; he presided over the acquirements. In December a New York foreclosure auction sold off the W Hotel Union Square for US$2 million, which was owned by Istithmar World.



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European Union offers to train Somali troops as fighting breaks out

European Union offers to train Somali troops as fighting breaks out

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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Heavy fighting has broken out in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. As troops clash with Islamic fighters the European Union has said it will train 2,000 more soldiers for the country.

One major battle erupted at a base used by Burundian troops. African peacekeepers as well as local soldiers working for the transitional government fought back, according to eyewitnesses. Heavy artillery was used this morning. Soldiers in Somaliland found explosives which later went off, killing at least three people.

Somaliland’s deputy governor, Mohamed Abdi Dimbil, said locals had discovered the bombs and handed them over to soldiers. They detonated while the soldiers still had them, causing the deaths as well as injuries.

EU foreign ministers in Brussels responded to the clashes. A joint statement read: “The EU should … continue to help stabilise Somalia by providing support to vital and priority areas such as the security sector, development, assistance to the population and capacity-building support. In this context, the Council agreed to set up a military mission to contribute to training of Somali security forces.”

Spain will lead the mission and France has pledged troops as well. Britain, Slovenia, Greece, and Hungary are expected to participate, according to Reuters.



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January 25, 2010

Trial begins for Canadian soldier accused of murder in battlefield killing

Trial begins for Canadian soldier accused of murder in battlefield killing

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Monday, January 25, 2010

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A court martial got underway today accusing a Canadian soldier of murder for shooting a member of the Taliban on an Afghan battlefield. Captain Robert Semrau’s case is believed to be a military and legal first.

Semrau, 38, is facing four charges for the 2008 death. He is accused of second-degree murder, attempted murder, behaving in a disgraceful manner, and negligently performing a military duty. It is alleged that he shot the man twice despite him being an unarmed and “seriously wounded” prisoner.

Court documents set a scene in which 36-year-old Semrau was in charge of a small group of soldiers caught in an ambush on October 19 last year. The Canadians were mentoring some new Afghan recruits, who were under British command. A United States Apache assault helicopter provided assistance to the group, who were in Lashkar Gah, Helmand, strafing the area.

After beating back their attackers the soldiers discovered a fighter with injuries deemed to be so severe that medical aid would be ineffective, along with a dead man. He was disarmed, his assault rifle having been captured. Shortly afterwards, with only Semrau near the man, two gunshots were heard. At least one eyewitness claims to have watched Semrau shooting the militant with his field rifle. Troops then moved on and the man’s body was never recovered.

Captain Semrau was not investigated for two months, when his superiors heard of the alleged killing. He was ultimately arrested by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service a month later and charged. He is now set to go on trial before Colonel Mario Duti, a military judge, and a five-member panel.

The Canadian Press contacted Michel Drapeau, a retired lawyer and colonel. He says he believes it to be the first time Canada has launched a court martial for the death of a prisoner on the battlefield. “It’s unprecedented in many, many respects. I can’t remember any such incidents in the past 50 years and in the Second World War, I don’t believe there was such a court martial.”

There are a few recorded instances of alleged extra-judicial killing by Canadian soldiers, but no court martials for murder. Two Canadian soldiers faced a murder charge for the death of a teenager in Somalia in 1993 but the case was dropped; some evidence emerged during the inquiry that suggested another man may also have been killed illegally. More anecdotally, Canadians have been accused of similar murders in Korea and of shooting German prisoners for revenge during the second world war.



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Iranian air politician blames pilot error for yesterday\’s jet crash

Iranian air politician blames pilot error for yesterday’s jet crash

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Monday, January 25, 2010

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A Taban Tu-154, from file

Reza Nakhjavani, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, has publicly stated that he blames yesterday’s jet crash on pilot error. Nobody was killed when the Tupolev Tu-154 crash-landed and caught fire on the runway.

Media reports at the time said the aircraft was performing an emergency landing in Mashad owing to a passenger requiring medical attention. Nakhjavani said that he is yet to see confirmation of this passenger’s existance, and accused the pilot of placing one life before over 150 others; there were a combined 170 passengers and crew aboard.

The Taban Air plane then crashed in the fog and caught fire. The aircraft sustained a tailstrike followed by landing gear failure and the right wing breaking. Forty-six people were injured and the Tu-154 burned on the runway. Nakhjavani claimed the pilot’s actions were illegal and he had no clearance to land, also blaming Air Taban and stating they were negligent.

Hamid Behbahani, Minister of Roads and Transportation, also blamed “human error” for both the air crash and a train accident the same day that killed nine people. However, he stated that the foggy weather conditions also played a role in the plane crash. Taban’s license is currently suspended.

Iran uses a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft, particularly Tupolevs. In recent years these have had a high accident rate. Last year a Tu-154 crash killed 168 people shortly after takeoff from Tehran heading to Yerevan, Armenia. It was the worst accident in Iranian aviation history. RIA Novosti has stated that this fleet is aging and in urgent need of maintenance and repair work, while Iran blames international sanctions which they claim prevent the import of spare parts except low-quality products from Russia.

Regardless of the causes of the problems Iran has experienced with its Tupolevs, the nation today banned the import of any more Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft. Meanwhile, Russia has sent a team from the Interstate Aviation Committee to assist investigations. Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation the state which manufactured an aircraft typically asists any probe into an accident involving it.

The Interstate Aviation Committee was set up after the collapse of the Soviet Union to replace the single body in place accross the USSR. If Iran concludes negligent pilot error was indeed to blame then the country cannot sanction the flight crew since they are employed by Russia’s Federal Aviation Service. The Russian party to the investigation issues flight is responsible for licensing pilots.



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  • “Iranian passenger flight catches fire” — Wikinews, January 25, 2010

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