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 Transnational Issues

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007

Map of Iran

Legend: DefinitionDefinition Field ListingField Listing Rank OrderRank Order
   Introduction    Iran Top of Page
Definition Field Listing
Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority nominally vested in a learned religious scholar. Iranian-US relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987-1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement. Following the elections of a reformist president and Majlis in the late 1990s, attempts to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction floundered as conservative politicians prevented reform measures from being enacted, increased repressive measures, and made electoral gains against reformers. Parliamentary elections in 2004 and the August 2005 inauguration of a conservative stalwart as president, completed the reconsolidation of conservative power in Iran's government.
   Geography    Iran Top of Page
Definition Field Listing
Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan
Geographic coordinates:
Definition Field Listing
32 00 N, 53 00 E
Map references:
Definition Field Listing
Middle East
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 1.648 million sq km
land: 1.636 million sq km
water: 12,000 sq km
Area - comparative:
Definition Field Listing
slightly larger than Alaska
Land boundaries:
Definition Field Listing
total: 5,440 km
border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km
Definition Field Listing
2,440 km; note - Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)
Maritime claims:
Definition Field Listing
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements or median lines in the Persian Gulf
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Definition Field Listing
mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast
Definition Field Listing
rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts
Elevation extremes:
Definition Field Listing
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Kuh-e Damavand 5,671 m
Natural resources:
Definition Field Listing
petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur
Land use:
Definition Field Listing
arable land: 9.78%
permanent crops: 1.29%
other: 88.93% (2005)
Irrigated land:
Definition Field Listing
76,500 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
Definition Field Listing
periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes
Environment - current issues:
Definition Field Listing
air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; wetland losses from drought; soil degradation (salination); inadequate supplies of potable water; water pollution from raw sewage and industrial waste; urbanization
Environment - international agreements:
Definition Field Listing
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
Definition Field Listing
strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport
   People    Iran Top of Page
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
68,688,433 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
Definition Field Listing
0-14 years: 26.1% (male 9,204,785/female 8,731,429)
15-64 years: 69% (male 24,133,919/female 23,245,255)
65 years and over: 4.9% (male 1,653,827/female 1,719,218) (2006 est.)
Median age:
Definition Field Listing
total: 24.8 years
male: 24.6 years
female: 25 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
Definition Field Listing
1.1% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
17 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
5.55 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
Definition Field Listing
-0.48 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
Definition Field Listing
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 40.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 40.49 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 40.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total population: 70.26 years
male: 68.86 years
female: 71.74 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.8 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
31,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
800 (2003 est.)
Definition Field Listing
noun: Iranian(s)
adjective: Iranian
Ethnic groups:
Definition Field Listing
Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Definition Field Listing
Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 2%
Definition Field Listing
Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%
Definition Field Listing
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.4%
male: 85.6%
female: 73% (2003 est.)
   Government    Iran Top of Page
Country name:
Definition Field Listing
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Iran
conventional short form: Iran
local long form: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
local short form: Iran
former: Persia
Government type:
Definition Field Listing
theocratic republic
Definition Field Listing
name: Tehran
geographic coordinates: 35 40 N, 51 26 E
time difference: UTC+3.5 (8.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
Definition Field Listing
30 provinces (ostanha, singular - ostan); Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Bushehr, Chahar Mahall va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshah, Khorasan-e Janubi, Khorasan-e Razavi, Khorasan-e Shemali, Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh va Buyer Ahmad, Kordestan, Lorestan, Markazi, Mazandaran, Qazvin, Qom, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchestan, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan
Definition Field Listing
1 April 1979 (Islamic Republic of Iran proclaimed)
National holiday:
Definition Field Listing
Republic Day, 1 April (1979)
note: additional holidays celebrated widely in Iran include Revolution Day, 11 February (1979); Noruz (New Year's Day), 21 March; Constitutional Monarchy Day, 5 August (1925); and various Islamic observances that change in accordance with the lunar-based hejira calendar
Definition Field Listing
2-3 December 1979; revised 1989 to expand powers of the presidency and eliminate the prime ministership
Legal system:
Definition Field Listing
the Constitution codifies Islamic principles of government
Definition Field Listing
15 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
Definition Field Listing
chief of state: Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-KHAMENEI (since 4 June 1989)
head of government: President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD (since 3 August 2005); First Vice President Parviz DAVUDI (since 11 September 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval; the Supreme Leader has some control over appointments to the more sensitive ministries
note: also considered part of the Executive branch of government are three oversight bodies: 1) Assembly of Experts, a popularly elected body of 86 religious scholars constitutionally charged with determining the succession of the Supreme Leader, reviewing his performance, and deposing him if deemed necessary; 2) Expediency Council or Council for the Discernment of Expediency is a policy advisory and implementation board consisting of permanent and temporary members representing all major government factions, some of whom are appointed by the Supreme Leader; the Council exerts supervisory authority over the executive, judicial, and legislative branches and resolves legislative issues on which the Majles and the Council of Guardians disagree; 3) Council of Guardians or Council of Guardians of the Constitution is a 12-member board of clerics and jurists serving six-year terms that determines whether proposed legislation is both constitutional and faithful to Islamic law; the Council also vets candidates for suitability and supervises national elections
elections: Supreme Leader appointed for life by the Assembly of Experts; president elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 17 June 2005 with a two-candidate runoff on 24 June 2005 (next to be held in 2009)
election results: Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD elected president; percent of vote - Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD 62%, Ali Akbar Hashemi RAFSANJANI 36%
Legislative branch:
Definition Field Listing
unicameral Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami (290 seats - formerly 270 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 20 February 2004 with a runoff held 7 May 2004 (by-elections next to be held in December 2006; general election to be held in February 2008)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - conservatives/Islamists 190, reformers 50, independents 43, religious minorities 5, and 2 seats unaccounted for
Judicial branch:
Definition Field Listing
Supreme Court - above a special clerical court, a revolutionary court, and a special administrative court
Political parties and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
formal political parties are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran and most conservatives still prefer to work through political pressure groups rather than parties; a loose pro-reform coalition called the 2nd Khordad Front, which includes political parties as well as less formal pressure groups and organizations, achieved considerable success at elections to the sixth Majles in early 2000; groups in the coalition include: Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), Executives of Construction Party (Kargozaran), Solidarity Party, Islamic Labor Party, Mardom Salari, Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO), and Militant Clerics Society (Ruhaniyun); the coalition participated in the seventh Majles elections in early 2004; following his defeat in the 2005 presidential elections, former MCS Secretary General Mehdi KARRUBI formed the National Trust Party; a new apparently conservative group, the Builders of Islamic Iran, took a leading position in the new Majles after winning a majority of the seats in February 2004
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Definition Field Listing
political pressure groups conduct most of Iran's political activities; groups that generally support the Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam, Tehran Militant Clergy Association (Ruhaniyat), Islamic Coalition Party (Motalefeh), and Islamic Engineers Society; active pro-reform student groups include the Office of Strengthening Unity (OSU); opposition groups include Freedom Movement of Iran, the National Front, Marz-e Por Gohar, and various ethnic and Monarchist organizations; armed political groups that have been almost completely repressed by the government include Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), People's Fedayeen, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, and Komala
International organization participation:
Definition Field Listing
Diplomatic representation in the US:
Definition Field Listing
none; note - Iran has an Interests Section in the Pakistani Embassy; address: Iranian Interests Section, Pakistani Embassy, 2209 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990; FAX [1] (202) 965-1073
Diplomatic representation from the US:
Definition Field Listing
none; note - protecting power in Iran is Switzerland
Flag description:
Definition Field Listing
three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized representation of the word Allah in the shape of a tulip, a symbol of martyrdom) in red is centered in the white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band
   Economy    Iran Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Definition Field Listing
Iran's economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale - workshops, farming, and services. President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI, with limited progress. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass nearly $60 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to the development of weapons of mass destruction remains a contentious issue with leading Western nations.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$610.4 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
Definition Field Listing
$194.8 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
5% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$8,900 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 11.2%
industry: 41.7%
services: 47.1% (2006 est.)
Labor force:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
24.36 million
note: shortage of skilled labor (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
Definition Field Listing
agriculture: 30%
industry: 25%
services: 45% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
11.2% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Definition Field Listing
40% (2002 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
Definition Field Listing
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
Definition Field Listing
43 (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
15.8% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
30% of GDP (2006 est.)
Definition Field Listing
revenues: $104.6 billion
expenditures: $100.6 billion; including capital expenditures of $7.6 billion (2006 est.)
Public debt:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
25.3% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
Definition Field Listing
wheat, rice, other grains, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, cotton; dairy products, wool; caviar
Definition Field Listing
petroleum, petrochemicals, textiles, cement and other construction materials, food processing (particularly sugar refining and vegetable oil production), metal fabrication, armaments
Industrial production growth rate:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.2% excluding oil (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
155.7 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
145.1 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
Definition Field Listing
1.837 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
Definition Field Listing
2.17 billion kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.979 million bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
1.51 million bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
2.5 million bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
NA bbl/day (2001)
Oil - proved reserves:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
132.5 billion bbl (2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
83.9 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
85.54 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.56 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
5.2 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
26.62 trillion cu m (1 January 2005 est.)
Current account balance:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$13.13 billion (2006 est.)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$63.18 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
petroleum 80%, chemical and petrochemical products, fruits and nuts, carpets
Exports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
Japan 16.9%, China 11.2%, Italy 5.9%, South Korea 5.8%, Turkey 5.7%, Netherlands 4.6%, France 4.4%, South Africa 4.1%, Taiwan 4.1% (2005)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$45.48 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
Definition Field Listing
industrial raw materials and intermediate goods, capital goods, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, technical services, military supplies
Imports - partners:
Definition Field Listing
Germany 13.9%, UAE 8.4%, China 8.3%, Italy 7.1%, France 6.3%, South Korea 5.4%, Russia 4.9% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$58.46 billion (2006 est.)
Debt - external:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
$14.8 billion (2006 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
Definition Field Listing
$408 million (2002 est.)
Currency (code):
Definition Field Listing
Iranian rial (IRR)
Exchange rates:
Definition Field Listing
rials per US dollar - 9,246.94 (2006), 8,964 (2005), 8,614 (2004), 8,193.9 (2003), 6,907 (2002), note, Iran has been using a managed floating exchange rate regime since unifying multiple exchange rates in March 2002
Fiscal year:
Definition Field Listing
21 March - 20 March
   Communications    Iran Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
18.986 million (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7.222 million (2005)
Telephone system:
Definition Field Listing
general assessment: inadequate, but currently being modernized and expanded with the goal of not only improving the efficiency and increasing the volume of the urban service but also bringing telephone service to several thousand villages, not presently connected
domestic: as a result of heavy investing in the telephone system since 1994, the number of long-distance channels in the microwave radio relay trunk has grown substantially; many villages have been brought into the net; the number of main lines in the urban systems has approximately doubled; thousands of mobile cellular subscribers are being served; moreover, the technical level of the system has been raised by the installation of thousands of digital switches
international: country code - 98; HF radio and microwave radio relay to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Kuwait, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; submarine fiber-optic cable to UAE with access to Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG); Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line runs from Azerbaijan through the northern portion of Iran to Turkmenistan with expansion to Georgia and Azerbaijan; satellite earth stations - 9 Intelsat and 4 Inmarsat
Radio broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
AM 72, FM 5, shortwave 5 (1998)
Television broadcast stations:
Definition Field Listing
28 (plus 450 low-power repeaters) (1997)
Internet country code:
Definition Field Listing
Internet hosts:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
5,242 (2006)
Internet users:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
7.5 million (2005)
   Transportation    Iran Top of Page
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
321 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 129
over 3,047 m: 41
2,438 to 3,047 m: 26
1,524 to 2,437 m: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 31
under 914 m: 6 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
Definition Field Listing
total: 192
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 8
914 to 1,523 m: 140
under 914 m: 43 (2006)
Definition Field Listing
15 (2006)
Definition Field Listing
condensate 7 km; condensate/gas 397 km; gas 17,099 km; liquid petroleum gas 570 km; oil 8,521 km; refined products 7,808 km (2006)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 7,256 km
broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge
standard gauge: 7,162 km 1.435-m gauge (186 km electrified) (2005)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 179,388 km
paved: 120,782 km (including 878 km of expressways)
unpaved: 58,606 km (2003)
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
850 km (850 km on Karun River; additional service on Lake Urmia) (2006)
Merchant marine:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
total: 141 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,086,702 GRT/8,878,829 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 39, cargo 45, chemical tanker 4, container 12, liquefied gas 1, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 6, petroleum tanker 30, roll on/roll off 3
foreign-owned: 1 (UAE 1)
registered in other countries: 22 (Bolivia 1, Cyprus 2, Malta 14, Panama 4, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Definition Field Listing
Assaluyeh, Bushehr
   Military    Iran Top of Page
Military branches:
Definition Field Listing
Islamic Republic of Iran Regular Forces (Artesh): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force (Niruye Havayi Jomhuriye Islamiye Iran; includes air defense); Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami, IRGC): Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force, Qods Force (special operations), and Basij Force (Popular Mobilization Army); Law Enforcement Forces (2006)
Military service age and obligation:
Definition Field Listing
18 years of age for compulsory military service; 16 years of age for volunteers; soldiers as young as 9 were recruited extensively during the Iran-Iraq War; conscript service obligation - 18 months (2004)
Manpower available for military service:
Definition Field Listing
males age 18-49: 18,319,545
females age 18-49: 17,541,037 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
Definition Field Listing
males age 18-49: 15,665,725
females age 18-49: 15,005,597 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
Definition Field Listing
males age 18-49: 862,056
females age 18-49: 808,044 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
Definition Field Listing Rank Order
3.3% (2003 est.)
   Transnational Issues    Iran Top of Page
Disputes - international:
Definition Field Listing
Iran protests Afghanistan's limiting flow of dammed tributaries to the Helmand River in periods of drought; Iraq's lack of a maritime boundary with Iran prompts jurisdiction disputes beyond the mouth of the Shatt al Arab in the Persian Gulf; Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which are occupied by Iran; Iran stands alone among littoral states in insisting upon a division of the Caspian Sea into five equal sectors
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
Definition Field Listing
refugees (country of origin): 952,802 (Afghanistan) 93,173 (Iraq) (2005)
Trafficking in persons:
Definition Field Listing
current situation: Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude; according to foreign observers, women and girls are trafficked to Pakistan, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, and Europe for sexual exploitation, while boys from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are trafficked through Iran en route to Persian Gulf states where they are ultimately forced to work as camel jockeys, beggars, or laborers; Afghan women and girls are trafficked to the country for forced marriages and sexual exploitation; women and children are also trafficked internally for the purposes of forced marriage, sexual exploitation, and involuntary servitude
tier rating: Tier 3 - Iran is downgraded to Tier 3 after persistent, credible reports of Iranian authorities punishing victims of trafficking with beatings, imprisonment, and execution
Illicit drugs:
Definition Field Listing
despite substantial interdiction efforts, Iran remains a key transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin to Europe; domestic narcotics consumption remains a persistent problem and according to official Iranian statistics there are at least 2 million drug users in the country; lacks anti-money-laundering laws

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007

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