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Uncertainty Over Investigation Of Ukrainian Airliner Crash In Iran

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / Rescue teams recover a body after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board.

A day after the crash of a Ukrainian Boeing 737 -800 in the south of the Iranian capital Tehran, it is still not clear whether Iran will allow other countries to be involved in the investigation, as international laws require.

Earlier Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed interest to take part in the investigation as 63 passengers were Canadian citizens. Tehran has not responded to Trudeau's remarks but has indicated it wants the investigation to be handled in Iran.

As a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations special agency, Iran is required to comply with its regulations. According to Annex 13 of ICAO's Manual of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation, the state in which the accident occurs will institute an inquiry into the circumstances of the accident.

However, according to the same manual the countries where the aircraft was registered, operated, designed and manufactured, as well as those that have a special interest by virtue of fatalities or serious injuries to their citizens, are entitled to appoint accredited representatives to participate in the investigation.

The Iranian Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) has refuted earlier reports that Iran would not send the plane's black boxes to "Boeing and Americans". Experts say few countries are capable of analyzing the black boxes.

According to a statement published on the website of the organization on January 8, the head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization has said that in accordance with the ICAO regulations the investigating team of CAO has "called on all the countries that are entitled to participate in the investigations on the basis of these regulations to appoint their representatives".

Based on ICAO regulations the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States, the manufacturing country, would normally be involved in the investigation of American-made Boeings. The manufacturing company, Boeing in this case, does not enjoy such rights.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that 138 of the flight's total 167 passengers were headed to Canada and has vowed to get answers for the death of 63 of its citizens who died in the crash. "I'm sure we will be able to be part of the investigation," Trudeau has said.

Iran and Canada have had no diplomatic relations since September 2012 when Canada closed its embassy in Iran and suspended diplomatic relations citing Iran's material support to the Assad regime in Syria during the Syrian Civil War and fear for the safety of Canadian diplomats following attacks on the British Embassy in Tehran.

The crash came amid high tensions between Iran and the United States, hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles on two bases in Iraq that host U.S. and other Coalition troops including Britain.

The CAO statement also quoted the head of the organization as saying that both of the plane's black boxes which record flight data (FDR) and sounds in the cockpit (CVR) were damaged in the crash but the recorded information is still accessible.

Abedzadeh also said that the plane had changed its course following a problem after take-off and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash.

According to Abedzadeh, of the 167 passengers 146 were Iranians and nine including the crew were Ukrainian. Iran also insists there were only 5 Canadians on board because most of the Canadian passengers were dual-nationals and Iran considers them as its own citizens. Canada considers 63 of the passengers Canadian nationals.

The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has also cautioned against "speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe" until official reports are compiled while the Ukrainian public is highly suspicious of the cause of the incident.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran initially ruled out the possibility of an attack on the plane and said it went down "due to an engine problem" but hours later removed the statement, saying that any comment on the cause of the crash before a commission's inquiry was not official.

Iran has denied any rumors of the possibility of a missile hitting the Ukrainian airliner and the spokesman of the Iranian Armed Forces, Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, has described them as "part of Americans psychological warfare" against Iran.

Associated Press has reported a Democrat in Washington who attended a classified briefing from Trump administration officials on Capitol Hill — including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and CIA Director Gina Haspel — as saying that the briefers had no intelligence indicating the plane had been shot down. The source spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

However, on Thursday Newsweek reported that a Pentagon official, a senior U.S. intelligence official and an Iraqi intelligence official have said that the Ukrainian flight was struck by Iran's by an anti-aircraft missile believed to have been a Russian-built Tor-M1.

According to these sources the anti-aircraft missile system had likely been active following the country's missile attack hour earlier in response to the killing of Revolutionary Guards Qods Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani on January 3.