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Friday, September 17, 1999:

Iran Unveils New Helicopter

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( AP ) - Iran has unveiled a new helicopter designed and built locally by an elite paramilitary force, Tehran television reported.

The Shahed X5 has a maximum speed of 112.5 mph and can reach an altitude of 17,000 feet, said the television report late Thursday. The report did not say whether the helicopter was built for civilian or military use.

The helicopter took three years to design and was built by experts in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the report said. It can carry four passengers and has a 372-mile range, said the broadcast, which was monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp.

Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who witnessed Thursday's launch, said construction of the helicopter was auspicious for both Iran and the world of Islam.

``Today the responsible and revolutionary sons of the nation have broken a technological taboo about the design and construction of helicopters, and this has auspicious consequences for Iran and the world of Islam,'' Rafsanjani, who is still a prominent figure in Iranian politics, was quoted as saying.

Iran began mass production of two other helicopters, the Shabaviz 2-75 and Shabaviz 2061, last May, according to Iranian media reports.

Iran began an ambitious domestic arms development program during the 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for weapons shortages caused by a U.S. embargo. Since 1992, Iran has unveiled its own tanks, armored personnel carriers and missiles. It claims to have built even its own fighter plane.