|The US Embassy in Tehran was seized by Islamic militants on 3 November 1979
1980: Tehran hostage rescue mission fails
A top-secret attempt by the United States to free American hostages held in Iran's capital,Tehran, has collapsed in failure, with the death of eight soldiers.
President Carter announced the disastrous mission in a broadcast to the nation earlier today.
"I ordered this rescue mission prepared in order to safeguard American lives and protect America's national interests, and to reduce the tensions in the world that have been caused among many nations as this crisis has continued," he said.
He took full personal responsibility for the operation, and its cancellation, but did not rule out another attempt.
It was the first the American public, or the wider world, had heard of the mission, although it had been planned since shortly after the US embassy in Iran was seized last November by Islamic militants. They have held 53 US citizens hostage there ever since.
The dramatic attempt to free the hostages began yesterday when six Hercules C130 transport planes set off torendezvouswith a group of nine helicopters at a remote desert airstrip, south-east of Tehran.
But the mission ran into trouble almost as soon as it had started.
From farce to tragedy
Two helicopters went down with engine trouble, and a third was diverted to help.
Then another helicopter was damaged as it landed on the airstrip, leaving only five workable helicopters. The mission had become impossible.
President Carter ordered the operation to abort. It was then that the farce became a tragedy.
As the aircraft took off again, another helicopter crashed into one of the C130 aircraft and burst into flames. Eight soldiers died, and another four men suffered burns.
"An act of war"
In Tehran there were jubilant scenes as thousands of people celebrated the failure of the mission.
The Foreign Minister, Sadeq Qotbzadeh, condemned the rescue effort as "an act of war".
In Europe, there was shock and surprise that the mission had taken place without advance consultation of America's allies.
EEC governments have recently agreed to threaten sanctions against Iran in the hope of preventing the use of force.