Iran Wants Black Box Data After Western Leaders Say Plane Was Downed by Missile

U.S. officials say Iranian missile fired at the plane ■ Trudeau claims Canada has evidence ■ Iran invites Boeing, U.S. to join probe ■ Trump increases sanctions against Tehran

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Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2020.
Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2020. Credit: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Iran said on Friday it wanted to download black box recordings itself from a Ukrainian airliner that crashed, killing all 176 people aboard, after Canada and others said the plane was brought down by an Iranian missile, probably by mistake.

Iran, which has denied the Boeing 737-800 was downed by a missile, said it could take one or two months to extract information from the voice and flight data recorders. If it needed help, it said it could ask Russia, Canada, France or Ukraine.

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An Iranian aviation official also said the probe could take one or two years.

Ukraine said it could not rule out a missile strike but this had not been confirmed. The Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran crashed on Wednesday, just a few hours after Iran launched a ballistic attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops in its violent confrontation with Washington over the U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general. The airliner could have been mistaken for a threat, U.S. officials said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country lost at least 63 citizens in the downing, said in Ottawa: “We have intelligence from multiple sources including our allies and our own intelligence. The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered similar statements. Morrison also said it appeared to be a mistake. “All of the intelligence as presented to us today does not suggest an intentional act,” he said.

Mousavi said Iran asks Canada's prime minister and any other government to "provide any information they have to the investigation committee.”

Iranian officials have ruled out a missile strike, saying the plane appears to have crashed because of technical difficulties.

Trump announces increased sanctions as Iran denies accusations

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that the deadly crash could have been a mistake, adding that he had a terrible feeling about the downed airliner but offering no evidence.

"Somebody could have made a mistake," Trump told reporters at a the White House, adding that he had suspicions about the crash but giving no other details.

Trump also said he has approved increased sanctions on Iran after Teheran launched a missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American military personnel, but gave no other details. The plane crash came just a few hours after the missile strike.  

"It's already been done. We've increased them. They were very severe, but now it's increased substantially," Trump told reporters at the White House. "I just approved it a little while ago with Treasury."

The head of Iran's of Civil Aviation Organisation denied "illogical rumors" that a Ukrainian airliner that crashed near Tehran had been hit by a missile, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

"Scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumours are illogical," ISNA quoted Ali Abedzadeh as saying.

Earlier Thursday, the secretary of the Ukrainian Security Council, Oleksiy Danylov, said that one of the potential causes for the airplane's destruction that his country is probing is contact with a Russian-manufactured Tor M-1 system

The incident, which claimed the lives of all 176 people on board, came after the U.S. killed last week the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani an attack that has sparked concerns that a new war will be waged in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, an initial Iranian investigative report said Thursday that the crew of the plane never made a radio call for help and was trying to turn back for the airport when the burning plane went down. 

The Iranian report suggests that a sudden emergency struck the Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines early on Wednesday morning, when it crashed, just minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.

Investigators from Iran's Civil Aviation Organization offered no immediate explanation for the disaster, however. Iranian officials initially blamed a technical malfunction for the crash, something initially backed by Ukrainian officials before they said they wouldn't speculate amid an ongoing investigation.

Ukraine's leader said Iranian President Hassan Rohani has assured him of full cooperation in investigating the fatal crash and that Iran would provide experts access to all data.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke with Rohani by telephone on Thursday.

A statement on the Ukrainian presidential website says: “The Iranian party assured full cooperation with a view to holding an objective investigation and finding out the causes of the tragedy. Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran would provide the Ukrainian expert group with prompt access to all the necessary data.”

DPA contributed to this report.

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