Iran begins funeral of President Raisi

Funeral services for Iran's president and foreign minister began Tuesday in northwestern Iran as investigators examined the helicopter crash that killed them and the country grappled with the shock of losing two of its most prominent leaders in an unstable moment.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced five days of mourning for the president, Ebrahim Raisi, 63, and the foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, 60, who died when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous area near the Iranian city of Jolfa on Sunday. State media said the crash was the result of a “technical failure.” The Iranian military said it had launched an investigation and sent a team to the scene.

Videos published by Iranian news agencies showed crowds lining the street behind barriers Tuesday morning, under a gray sky in the northwestern city of Tabriz, waiting for a procession carrying the flag-draped coffins of Raisi, Amir Abdollahian and the other six killed. in the crash. Some people had photographs of Mr. Raisi; The semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported that the country's interior minister and interim president were spotted in the crowd.

The funeral procession in Tabriz, the closest major city to the crash site, was the first in a series of official events to bid farewell to the president, a hard-line cleric who came of age during the country's Islamic revolution and has oversaw a deadly crackdown on protesters as head of the judiciary in 2019 and as president in 2022. He had been widely seen as a potential successor to Ayatollah Khamenei, 85.

While some Iranians mourned Mr. Raisi, others welcomed the loss of a man they considered a key figure in a corrupt regime that oversaw the execution of dissidents, used violence to repress and kill protesters and arrested journalists and activists.

After the events in Tabriz, the bodies of Raisi and the others who died in the accident are expected to be taken to the city of Qom and then to Tehran, the capital, by evening.

Iranian authorities have declared Wednesday an official holiday and funeral prayers and a funeral procession are planned in Tehran. The events will include a ceremony attended by foreign dignitaries, according to state media, although it is not yet clear which world leaders will attend.

Mr Raisi's burial will take place on Thursday in his hometown of Mashhad.

Iranian leaders have moved to convey a sense of calm in the aftermath of the collapse, reassuring the public that the government will continue to function. An interim president, Mohammad Mokhber, and an interim foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, were quickly appointed. The date for the new presidential elections has been set, June 28.

But there remains apprehension about what comes next for the country, which has lurched from one crisis to another. The incident occurred at a particularly difficult time for Iran, amid an economic crisis, widespread public discontent and geopolitical tensions that prompted Israel and Iran to exchange rare direct attacks last month.

Iranian analysts have said the Islamic Republic's stability and survival are not at risk, but many are cautious about who will assume the presidency and who will form the next government.

The death of Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian also upends Iran's recent wave of diplomacy with regional Arab countries to forge closer ties, manage the broader conflict with Israel and conduct indirect talks with the United States.

Leily Nikounazar contributed to the reporting.

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