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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian dies in weekend helicopter crash

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Sunday's helicopter crash that killed Iran's president also killed the foreign minister. Hossein Amirabdollahian was a past guest on this program. I first met him in Iran's capital almost a decade ago. We spoke twice more in recent years. The foreign minister was tall and bearded, courteous when we met, a career diplomat, although combative in making his points. One of our interviews came in 2022. Iranians then were protesting the death of a woman who'd been arrested. She was accused of violating a requirement to cover her hair. Amirabdollahian said he was sending word to Americans to forget about those demonstrations - that Iran's government would not fall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

HOSSEIN AMIRABDOLLAHIAN: (Through interpreter) I am assuring them that there is not a big deal going on in Iran. There is not going to be a regime change in Iran, and don't play to the emotions of the Iranian people.

INSKEEP: Time showed this ruthless assessment to be correct. Though the protests were Iran's biggest in years, government forces eventually crushed them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

INSKEEP: Is it appropriate that people should be put in prison for the way that they dress?

AMIRABDOLLAHIAN: (Through interpreter) Countries have their own rules and regulations, values.

INSKEEP: The foreign minister also spoke with us last October about Hamas, the Palestinian group that has received Iranian weapons and money. Hamas had just attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking many hostages. The foreign minister called them prisoners, yet our conversation showed they were hostages held as bargaining chips. The foreign minister claimed this was justified because Israel was striking back.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

AMIRABDOLLAHIAN: (Through interpreter) So as soon as there is the cease-fire, we are going to identify them, to somehow separate the military from the non-military and release them.

INSKEEP: It's not necessary for a cease-fire to release civilians. Why not urge Hamas to release the remainder?

AMIRABDOLLAHIAN: (Through interpreter) Do you think it's logical? You know, they're killing, they're mass-killing people, killing large number of people, and, at the same time, you expect them to release these people - you know, giving them a free hand in killing them and, at the same time, tying your own hands. This is not logical.

INSKEEP: Hamas eventually released some hostages as part of a brief pause in fighting. Other Israelis remain in custody to this day and some are dead. The crisis has outlasted the life of Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Iranian diplomat killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.