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Iran mourns President Raisi

Tehran, Iran, AFP — Iranians on Monday mourned the death of President Ebrahim Raisi whose helicopter crashed into a fog-shrouded mountain, setting off a period of political uncertainty in the Islamic republic.

Raisi, 63, his foreign minister, and seven others died when the aircraft went down on Sunday in a remote area of north-western Iran, where the wreckage was found on Monday morning.

The ultraconservative Raisi had been in office since 2021, a turbulent time during which Iran was rocked by mass protests, an economic crisis deepened by United States sanctions, and armed exchanges with arch-enemy Israel.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields ultimate power in Iran, declared five days of mourning and said Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber, 68, would assume interim presidential duties until elections are held within 50 days.

State media reported late on Monday that the elections would be held on June 28.

“The Iranian nation has lost a sincere and valuable servant,” said 85-year-old Khamenei, whom Raisi had been expected by many observers to one day succeed.

Thousands of mourners massed in central Tehran’s Valiasr Square to pay their respects to Raisi and to Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Funeral rites are set to start today in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, for them and the other victims — three crew, two bodyguards, an imam, and a provincial governor — before Raisi’s body is taken to Tehran.

A funeral procession will take place in the capital on Wednesday morning.