Canada, Iran at odds over who should analyse downed plane's black boxes

Canada, Iran at odds over who should analyse downed plane's black boxes

Ukraine airliner's black boxes recovered in Iran
The crate containing purportedly the two black boxes recovered from the crashed Ukrainian airliner, Boeing 737-800, is seen in this still image taken from a video, in Tehran, Iran January 10, 2020. IRIB VIA WANA/Handout via REUTERS

DUBAI: Iran said it had asked the US and French authorities for equipment to download information from black boxes on a downed Ukrainian airliner, potentially angering countries which want the recorders analysed abroad.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, which lost 57 of the 176 people killed in the crash, said Iran did not have the ability to read the data and he demanded the cockpit and flight recorders should be sent to France. Kiev wants the recorders sent to Ukraine.

READ: Iran confirms two missiles fired at Ukraine airliner

The US-built Boeing 737 flown by Ukraine International Airlines was shot down in error by Iranian forces on Jan 8 during a period of tit-for-tat military strikes that included the killing by the United States of a senior Iranian general on Jan 3.

Tehran, already embroiled in a long-running standoff with the United States over its nuclear programme, has given mixed signals about whether it would hand over the recorders.

An Iranian aviation official had said on Saturday (Jan 18) the black boxes would be sent to Ukraine, only to backtrack in comments reported a day later, saying they would be analysed at home.

READ: Bodies of Ukrainian victims of Iran plane crash returned home

A further delay in sending them abroad is likely to increase international pressure on Iran, whose military has said it shot the plane down by mistake while on high alert in the tense hours after Iran fired missiles at US targets in Iraq.

"If the appropriate supplies and equipment are provided, the information can be taken out and reconstructed in a short period of time," Iran's Civil Aviation Organization said in its second preliminary report on the disaster released late on Monday.

A list of equipment Iran needs has been sent to French accident agency BEA and the US National Transportation Safety Board, the Iranian aviation body said.

FILE PHOTO: General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing
FILE PHOTO: General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020 is seen in this screen grab obtained from a social media video via REUTERS

"Until now, these countries have not given a positive response to sending the equipment to (Iran)," it said. It said two surface-to-air TOR-M1 missiles had been launched minutes after the Ukrainian plane took off from Tehran.

READ: Iran says it 'unintentionally' shot down Ukraine passenger jet

"MAXIMUM PRESSURE"

Iran's aviation body says it does not have equipment needed to download information from the model of recorders on the three-year-old Boeing 737.

General Electric Co has received a license from the US Treasury Department to help in the investigation of the crash, a GE spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.

Under US sanctions law, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) must grant approval for US investigators to participate in the probe and potentially travel to Iran.

The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down in a catastrophic error shortly
The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down in a catastrophic error shortly after takeoff from Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board AFP/-

GE co-owns with France's Safran SA the French-US firm CFM that made the plane's engines.

Trudeau said the data should be downloaded immediately.

"There need to be qualified experts doing that but it's also a question of technology and equipment and that is not available in Iran," he told a news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

"There has been broad consensus in the international community that France would be the right place to send those boxes (and) we continue to pressure Iran to do just that."

READ: Canada, under pressure at home over plane crash, warns Iran world is watching

Trudeau also said Tehran's refusal to acknowledge dual citizenship was posing a challenge when it came to helping support the families of the Canadian victims, many of whom had close ties to Iran.

Iran, which took several days to acknowledge its role in bringing down the plane and faced street protests at home as a result, fired its missiles at US targets in response to a US drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan 3.

Iran has for years faced US sanctions that limited its ability to purchase modern planes and buy products with US technology. Many passenger planes used in Iran are decades old.

READ: Qasem Soleimani: Everything we know so far after top Iran general was killed in US strike

Under Tehran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran received sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear work. But Washington reimposed US sanctions after withdrawing from the pact in 2018, a move that led to the steady escalation of tension in recent months between the United States and Iran.

FILE PHOTO: Flowers and candles are placed in front of the portraits of the flight crew members of
FILE PHOTO: Flowers and candles are placed in front of the portraits of the flight crew members of the Ukraine International Airlines plane that was shot down by Iran, at a memorial at the Boryspil International airport outside Kiev, Ukraine January 11, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

European governments say they want to save the deal but have also suggested it may be time for a broader pact, in line with Trump's call for a deal that would go beyond Iran's nuclear work and include its missile programme and activities in the region.

Iran says it will not negotiate with sanctions in place.

Since the plane disaster, Iran's judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has said compensation should be paid to families of the victims, many of whom were Iranians or dual nationals.

Canada, Ukraine, Britain, Afghanistan and Sweden, which all lost citizens, have demanded Iran make the payouts

Source: Reuters/aa

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