"The final information that we just received is that there were 46 people on board and that 43 people died and three survived," the official, Ahmad bu Kallah, told Reuters.

United Arab Emirates officials had earlier said that 45 people had been on the plane and that 40 had died. 
 
The plane crashed while landing at Sharjah airport in the United Arab Emirates.

Witnesses said only flaming bits and pieces remained of the Kish Airlines plane. Ambulances were rushing to and from the scene.

"Only a bit of the tail remained. It doesn't look like many people survived. Rescue teams are still looking for people," one witness said.
 
"The plane crashed near the tarmac. Police have sealed off the area to allow rescue operations," she added.

Official sources confirmed to Aljazeera the plane had not crashed in a residential area.

Russian cargo jet

The smouldering remains of the
Russian cargo jet

A Kish Airlines official in Iran confirmed that one of the company's planes had been involved in an accident, but said the company was still seeking further information.

Earlier, security sources had said the plane was a Russian cargo jet, but the type of plane was not clear.
 
Iran's airlines have difficulty maintaining their ageing fleet of Boeing aircraft, many of them bought before the 1979 Islamic Revolution due to US sanctions.

Instead, they have turned to Russian-made aircraft often leased from former Soviet countries.

US embargo

Just last month, a top Iranian aviation official asked the US to lift sanctions on its airline industry so that the country could buy spare parts for its airplanes.

 

Recovered bodies are wrapped
in plastic bags

Hundreds of people had been killed in a string of plane crashes in recent years, mostly involving Russian-made Tupolov planes.

"We call on the United States to lift airline industry sanctions as a humanitarian gesture and to protect the lives of innocent passengers," Mahmud Mehranpour, deputy managing director of the state-owned Iran Air, was quoted as saying in a report on 23 January.

Fleet supplemented

"America's decision to send aid as a humanitarian gesture after the recent earthquake is commendable," Mehranpour said.

"Passengers on commercial flights are as innocent as civilians who lost family members in the quake"

Mahmud Mehranpour,
Deputy Managing Director, Iran Air

He, however, added "we expect the US to expand its gesture and lift (the embargo on) plane spare parts for the same humanitarian reasons.

"Passengers on commercial flights are as innocent as civilians who lost family members in the quake," Mehranpour said.

Since the revolution, Iran has supplemented its fleet of Boeing and European-made Airbus airliners with planes bought or leased from the former Soviet Union.

Iran is not allowed to buy European-made Airbuses because about 40% of their parts are US-made.


Chronology of major air crashes involving Iran

The last airline crash over Sharjah was in 1997, when a Tajikistan Airlines plane crashed in a river about 13km from the airport. Eight of the nine crew members and all 77 passengers were killed.