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Thu 16 Jul 2009 03:30 PM

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Technical fault caused Iran plane crash, officials

Transport official says pilot likely not to blame for crash which killed 168 people.

Technical fault caused Iran plane crash, officials
PLANE CRASH: A piece of the wreckage from the Iranian airliner that crashed lays in a field. (Getty Images)

Technical problems were the likely cause of the crash of an Iranian airliner that ploughed into a field in northwestern Iran killing all 168 on board, a transport official said on Thursday.

"The pilot could probably not be blamed for this crash and we think it was likely due to a technical problem," Ahmad Majidi, head of the transport ministry's crisis unit, was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

"Because of the severity of the accident two systems linked with the black box have been damaged in such a way that the tapes have come out of the boxes and scattered on the ground," he said.

Majidi insisted that the Caspian Airlines Tupolev-154 had undergone a safety check in Russia last month and had received a flight licence until 2010.

The plane caught fire in mid-air en route to Armenia and plunged into farmland on Wednesday just 16 minutes after take-off in the worst plane crash in Iran in years.

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