Canada, US say Iran likely downed Ukraine airliner with missiles
PARIS – The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has accepted an invitation from Iran to take part in its investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian airplane in Tehran, the agency confirmed late on Thursday.
The NTSB said in a statement its Response Operations Center had received formal notification from Iran of Wednesday’s crash of the Boeing 737-800 that killed all 176 on board. “The NTSB has designated an accredited representative to the investigation of the crash,” the agency said.
The NTSB confirmed it would take part in the probe after an Iranian official told Reuters of the agreement.
“The NTSB has replied to our chief investigator and has announced an accredited representative,” Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative at the International Civil Aviation Organization, part of the United Nations, told Reuters.
A person briefed on the matter said it was unclear what if anything its representative would be able to do under US sanctions. NTSB said in its statement it “continues to monitor the situation surrounding the crash and evaluate its level of participation in the investigation.”
The United States is allowed to take part under global rules since the Boeing 737-800NG jet was designed and built there.
Canada, which had dozens of passengers onboard, has also assigned an expert, while a team from Ukraine held discussions in Tehran on Thursday, Parvaresh told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Parvaresh said expert testimony indicated that the aircraft could not have been hit by a missile and that it was important to keep the crash investigation non-political.
“I think we should keep this purely technical and not confuse it with political tensions in the region. We should leave it to experts to investigate and make their report.”
Iran is ready to provide consular facilities and visas for accredited investigators, he added.
Sweden and Afghanistan, which had some passengers on board, have also been notified. France may also be involved as it was one of the countries where the engines were made, Parvaresh said.
He denied US and Canadian claims that the jet had been shot down accidentally and said Iran was committed to a full and transparent investigation for the accident, adding it was too early to speculate on the cause.
“As Iranians we feel this tragedy and disaster for us and for the families,” Parvaresh said, expressing condolences to the relatives of the people who died.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier the jet was probably brought down by an accidental Iranian missile strike, citing intelligence from Canadian and other sources.
“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,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau said his government would not rest until it had obtained closure, transparency, accountability and justice.
The US government believes Iran shot down the plane by mistake, three US officials told Reuters.
A US official, citing an extensive review of satellite data, said Washington had concluded with a high degree of certainty that anti-aircraft missiles brought down the plane. The official said the Boeing 737-800 had been tracked by Iranian radar.
The data showed the plane was airborne for two minutes after departing Tehran when the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected, one of the officials said.
That was quickly followed by an explosion in the vicinity of the plane, the official said. Heat signature data then showed it on fire as it went down. Heat signatures are infrared emissions detected by US military satellites.
The New York Times said it had obtained and verified a video that appeared to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran airport.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, US President Donald Trump said he did not believe the crash of the airliner was due to a mechanical issue.
“It’s a tragic thing. But somebody could have made a mistake – on the other side,” Trump said.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight to Kiev from Tehran crashed hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq.
Iran denied that the airliner had been hit by a missile.
“All these reports are a psychological warfare against Iran … all those countries whose citizens were aboard the plane can send representatives and we urge Boeing to send its representative to join the process of investigating the black box,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a statement.
(AW and Reuters)