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Iranian MPs demand probe into deadly train explosion

At least 132 MPs have demanded in a letter to Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi that another probe be carried out into the circumstances of a train explosion in northeast Iran, in which 289 people died this month, IRNA reported from Tehran.

A signatory to the letter, Hamid Reza Babaei, who represents the western city of Hamedan in the parliament, cited 'the lack of transparency in the causes' announced for the accident.

"We are demanding a probe in order to carefully examine the various aspects of this issue and identify and punish those found guilty," the MPs said in the letter, a copy of which was faxed to IRNA.

President Mohammad Khatami has earlier ordered a thorough probe into the accident and described the accident as 'unacceptable'.

The press on Saturday denounced what they called an irresponsible approach of the related officials towards the accident, with the daily Tosse'e choosing the front-page headline: "No resignation, no apology; what a cheek!."

It happened at the Khayyam rail station, several miles from the northeastern city of Neishabour, where wagons loaded with sulfur, fertilizer and cotton careened and exploded.

According to officials, 150 of the dead were state personnel, including employees of police, railway and fire stations as well as governor's offices.

Others killed in the explosion were local people, who resided in nearby villages, or were passers-by or visitors. The massive explosion at the rail station just outside the village of Hashem Abad Dehno also left 460 others injured.

Among the dead were the governor of Neishabour, the head of the city's electricity board, the fire department chief and an IRNA reporter who were killed in the ensuing series of explosions.

The State Inspectorate Organization has dispatched a fact-finding team to the city of Neishabour to find out how the wagons rolled out of control and derailed before exploding.

The daily Jaam-e Jam on Monday said Prosecutor General Ayatollah Abdonnabi Namazi, who visited the site of the explosion, had not ruled out the possibility of sabotage.

The public prosecutor said an investigation was underway in his office to establish how the accident happened.

Khorassan Governor General Hassan Rasouli, however, dismissed 'any likelihood of sabotage or involvement of external factors'. Speaking to reporters in Mashhad on Monday, he also said that the strength of the explosion equalled a 3.6-magnitude earthquake, which had created a crater, 30 meters deep and 180 meters wide.

The accident occurred while Iran was still reeling from the December 26 earthquake in the city of Bam, in which more than 43,000 were killed.

... Payvand News - 2/28/04 ... --

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