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Iran begins President Raisi's funeral; See video

Funeral ceremonies for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi began on Tuesday (21) following his death in a helicopter crash, as authorities investigate what caused the aircraft to crash into the side of a remote mountain on Sunday morning (19).

Raisi's death, along with other senior officials including the country's foreign minister, has left the Islamic republic's hardline establishment facing an uncertain future as it navigates rising regional tensions and internal discontent.

Iran's government has organized several days of mourning, culminating with a funeral later this week for the 63-year-old ultraconservative cleric who was once seen as a potential successor to current supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Tuesday began with funeral prayers and a procession in the northwestern city of Tabriz, the largest city in Iran's northwestern mountainous region where the helicopter crashed, according to Mohsen Mansouri, head of the funeral planning committee and deputy -president of executive affairs of Iran.

The program also included the transfer of the bodies of the victims to the holy Shiite city of Qom, where many of the clerics who make up Iran's theocratic elite are trained, before heading to the capital Tehran.

The biggest ceremonies are scheduled for the Grand Mosallah mosque in Tehran on Wednesday (22). Mansouri announced a holiday and the closure of offices across the country on the date so that the processions can take place.

Raisi's body will then be transferred to the historic Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, where Ayatollah Khamenei will lead prayers, according to Mehr News.

Rescue teams take body after helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi crashes, according to WANA news agency

There is no indication of what may have caused the crash – and why so many senior Iranian government officials were traveling in a single, decades-old helicopter.

In the first moments after Raisi's helicopter lost contact on Sunday night (19), Turkey said it monitored whether or not the aircraft gave a “signal”, but was unable to detect anything.

“We immediately contacted the Iranian side. They also contacted us, but unfortunately it was found that the signaling system was turned off or the helicopter did not have the signaling system,” Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu said, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT.

It was unclear whether he was referring to the helicopter's transponder, which the vast majority of aircraft are typically equipped with.

When asked if there was a possibility of sabotage, Uraloglu said it was too early to comment on this issue and said initial indications appeared to be an accident due to fog.

On Monday (20), Iranian media reported that the country's military chief appointed a commission to investigate the cause of the accident, which includes military and technical experts.

A high-ranking delegation will go to the crash site, according to Iranian news agency Tasnim.

Autocratic partners salute a lost 'friend'

The loss of Raisi – a hard-line conservative and protege of Ayatollah Khamenei – is likely to sow even more uncertainty in a country already struggling under significant economic and political pressure, with tensions with neighboring Israel reaching a dangerous level.

His death triggered national and international reactions – with several of Iran's autocratic partners offering effusive condolences and praise. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and North Korean Kim Jong-Un released statements praising Raisi's legacy and hailing him as a “friend.”

In his message, Kim described Raisi as “an outstanding statesman and a close friend of the (North Korean) people,” adding that the leader “has made a great contribution to the cause of the Iranian people to safeguard the sovereignty, development and interests of your country,” according to North Korean state media KCNA.

Xi, whose government last year played a role in brokering a historic rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, hailed Raisi's “important contributions to maintaining Iran's security and stability and promoting national development and prosperity.”

“Raisi’s tragic death is a great loss for the Iranian people, and the Chinese people have also lost a good friend,” Xi said in a statement carried by Chinese state media, adding that the two countries will continue to “consolidate and deepen” their partnership strategic.

Putin, who the US believes is receiving support from Iran for his war in Ukraine, called the Iranian leader an “outstanding politician” and a “true friend of Russia”. Raisi made “an invaluable personal contribution” to the development of relations between the countries, says Putin's statement released by the Kremlin.

The comments come as observers point to loose but growing coordination of interests between Iran, China, North Korea and Russia due to shared animosity toward a global system they see as dominated by the US and its values.

In Iran, where much of the country's restive young population grew tired of rule by conservative clerics, Raisi left a much more polarizing legacy.

He was widely seen as a figure in whom the hard-line Iranian establishment had invested heavily. But he also brutally suppressed a youth-led uprising over repressive laws such as the mandatory hijab, and continued to crack down on potential dissenters who continued to act after the wave of protests.

Source: CNN Brasil

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