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Iranian 'hero pilot' claims forced to retire by airlines

TEHRAN, Iran -- An Iranian pilot who became a national hero last year after he safely brought down a passenger plane with broken landing gear says that the country's flag carrier airline has forcibly retired him for wearing its uniform during his private campaign against Western sanctions.

Captain Hooshang Shahbazi says sanctions imposed over the country's controversial nuclear program prevent Tehran from updating its decades-old American and European aircraft, putting lives in danger.

But he said Thursday that Iran Air told him not to wear the uniform when he campaigns to lift sanctions. After he did so in a conference abroad earlier this year they retired him — even thought at age 55 he is still 10 years short of the official age.

Calls to the state-owned airline were not immediately returned.

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