Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said “there are still questions that must be answered” about how and why Iran “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane shortly after it took off from Tehran.
Speaking at a media conference after Iran admitted it had downed the jet with a short-range missile on Wednesday, killing all 176 on board, Mr Trudeau demanded a “full and complete investigation” into the crash.
“Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific and Iran must take full responsibility,” he said.
Image: Trudeau has attended vigils for victims of the crash
Mr Trudeau’s calls were echoed by the president of Ukraine, while in Tehran, up to about 1,000 protesters demonstrated against the Iranian authorities.
And the EU Aviation Safety Agency urged European airlines to avoid Iranian airspace until further notice.
Earlier on Saturday, the Iranian elite Revolutionary Guard admitted it “unintentionally” struck the Boeing 737-800, which was mostly carrying passengers from Iran and Canada.
Senior figures in Tehran placed some of the blame upon the US, with the tragedy having happened hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at two American bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top military general.
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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wept at the funeral of Qassem Soleimani earlier this week, expressed “deep sympathy” to the victims of the plane crash.
The commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, also offered an apology during an appearance on state TV, but there is anger building among Iranians online and on the streets of Tehran.
The protests took place outside the city’s Amir Kabir university, with videos on social media showing hundreds of people chanting for the supreme leader to resign.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the protests were a sign that the Iranian people “are fed up with the regime’s lies, corruption, ineptitude and brutality”.
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According to the Iranian Fars news agency, demonstrators have ripped up pictures of Major General Soleimani, whose controversial assassination sparked some criticism of US President Donald Trump.
Asked about whether the killing of the commander had contributed to the plane crash, Mr Trudeau said: “Times of tension like these is when a tragedy like this crash can happen.”
He called for a “de-escalation of tensions” in the region, and also condemned the Iranian strikes on the US air bases, which housed Canadian troops.
“The reality is there have been significant tensions in that region for a long time,” Mr Trudeau said.
“We are calling for a de-escalation to ensure there are no more tragic accidents and loss of civilian life.”
Image: The site where the plane crashed
Mr Trudeau welcomed Iran’s admission, describing it as “an important step towards providing answers for families”, however he said he and other leaders “still have questions that must be answered”.
“Families are seeking justice and accountability and deserve closure.”
His call for an investigation echoed that of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said Iran must cooperate.
Both leaders have spoken on the phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also spoke with his Iranian counterpart on Saturday, reiterating his demand that those behind the crash “must be held accountable” and that the victims be repatriated “immediately”.
Image: Plane engine among debris in Iran
Tehran has said the Ukrainian plane was “misidentified as a cruise missile” by an air defence operator.
The supreme leader was reportedly informed on Friday and ordered the information be made public, despite senior officials having spent days denying that Iran was responsible for the accident.
Tehran went as far as to say that accusations by the US and Canada that Iran had downed the jet, citing intelligence, amounted to “psychological warfare against Iran”.
On Friday, Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador to the UK, told Sky News that he was confident there had not been a missile strike that caused the plane to come down.
Following Iran’s admission, Supreme Leader Khamenei said: “Having been informed about the crash of the Ukrainian passenger plane and confirmation of the human error, the tragedy of deaths of passengers in this sad incident became a lot more severe for me.”
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Four British nationals were among those killed when the plane – Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 – crashed.
It went down shortly after leaving Tehran International Airport.
Source : Sky News