Iranian officials claimed lower-level officers had mistaken the jet for an American cruise missile. (AP: Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iran appears to have backtracked on its promise to send the flight recorders from a downed Ukranian jet it shot down for overseas analysis — a day after officials said they would be sent to Kiev.
- Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accidentally shot down a Ukranian jetliner, killing all 176 on board
- A senior Iranian official has been reported saying both that the black boxes would be sent overseas for analysis, and that Iran had no plans to do so
- Canada, which had 57 citizens on board, has called for the boxes to be sent quickly to France or Ukraine.
Hassan Rezaeifar, head of the accident investigations unit of Iran’s civil aviation authority, was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency on Sunday (local time) as saying, “the flight recorders from the Ukrainian Boeing are in Iranian hands and we have no plans to send them out”.
He said Iran was working to recover the data and cabin recordings, and that it may send the flight recorders — commonly known as black boxes — to Ukraine or France.
“But as of yet, we have made no decision,” Mr Rezaeifar said.
The same official was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the recorders would be sent to Ukraine, where French, American and Canadian experts would help analyse them.
Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but usable.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.
‘Iran has a path to choose’: Canada
The Canadian Government, which had nearly 60 of its citizens on the plane, said on Sunday that the boxes should be sent quickly for analysis by experts in either France or Ukraine.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday in Oman, said in a note to his Iranian counterpart that “Iran has a path to choose.”
“When you say to the world that you take full responsibility, that comes with consequences,” including full transparency, Mr Champagne wrote.
@CanadaFP: Minister Champagne joined his counterparts from #Ukraine, #Sweden, #UnitedKingdom and #Afghanistan to honour the memory of the victims of Flight #PS752 tragedy.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s air defences shot the plane down shortly after it took off from Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.
Hours earlier, the Guard had launched ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq in response to Washington’s assassination of Iran’s top general in Baghdad, Qassem Soleimani.
In the hours after the incident, Tehran claimed the crash was caused by a technical problem.
Three days later, Iran admitted responsibility, ultimately saying lower-ranking officers mistook the plane for a US cruise missile, after Western leaders said there was strong evidence the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens.
Mr Champagne (far-left), has called on Iran to take full responsibility for the incident. (AP: Frank Augstein)
Most of those killed were Iranians.
The other five nations have demanded Iran accept full responsibility and pay compensation to the victims’ families.
The plane was a US-built Boeing 737-800 with engines from joint French-US company CFM International.
Investigators from both countries have been invited to take part in the probe.