Iran said on Sunday that it is trying to analyze the black boxes of a Ukrainian airliner that its military shot down this month, denying a report that a decision had been taken to send the voice and flight data recorders to Ukraine, Reuters reports.
“We are trying to read the black boxes here in Iran. Otherwise, our options are Ukraine and France, but no decision has been taken so far to send them to another country,” Hassan Rezaifar, a director in charge of accident investigations at Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, told state news agency IRNA, according to the report.
Rezaifar had earlier, on Saturday, been quoted by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying the black boxes could not be decoded in Iran and would be sent to Ukraine after Kiev’s repeated requests. IRNA also reported on Sunday that the official had made similar comments a day earlier.
It was not immediately clear what prompted Rezaifar to backtrack, Reuters noted.
The Iranian military has said it downed Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in error in the aftermath of tit-for-tat strikes by the United States and Iran. But authorities delayed admitting this, prompting days of protests on Iran’s streets.
The Boeing 737-800 was en route from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital. Most of those on board were Iranians or dual nationals.
Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight in which all 176 people aboard were killed, said on Sunday there were still no firm plans for downloading the recorders. Ottawa and other capitals have called for the black boxes to be sent abroad.
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said he wrote to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Sunday to urge the boxes be sent quickly to Ukraine or France.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said two of its investigators left Tehran on Sunday after a six-day visit during which they examined the wreckage.
Iranian investigators were “cooperative and helpful” but said there were still no firm plans on how and when the black boxes would be downloaded, it said in a statement.
Ukraine has previously said it expected the recorders to be handed over, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said France was one of the few countries with the ability to read information on the recorders.
France’s air accident agency BEA said on Saturday it was awaiting an official request for assistance.
The bodies of 11 Ukrainian victims were brought home on Sunday in a ceremony at Kiev airport. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said that “bereaved families and the whole nation have an opportunity to pay their respects”.
The plane was brought down when the military was on high alert in the tense hours after Iran launched missiles at US targets in Iraq in response to the killing of a top Iranian commander in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 in Baghdad.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called the downing an “unforgivable error” and promised to hold those responsible to account.
The Revolutionary Guards also issued profuse apologies, as protesters raged against the Guards and the clerical system that the elite force was set up to protect.
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