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Ukraine Airlines crash: Iran denies plan to send black boxes abroad as it tries to analyse flight data itself

Peter Stubley
National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine/AFP

Iran has rejected reports it will send the black boxes from downed Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 abroad for analysis after the plane was accidentally shot down by the military.

The official leading the investigation into the crash which killed all 176 people on board appeared to backtrack on his own statement 24 hours earlier which said that the data recorders would be read in Ukraine.

“We are trying to read the black boxes here in Iran,” Hassan Rezaifar, a director at Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, told state news agency IRNA on Sunday.

“Otherwise, our options are Ukraine and France, but no decision has been taken so far to send them to another country.”

Mr Rezaifar had previously been quoted by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday as saying the black boxes could not be decoded in Iran and would be read in Ukraine with the help of experts from France, Canada and the US.

Canada, which had 57 citizens on the Boeing 737-800, has called for the black boxes to be sent to France for analysis. Two investigators from the country’s transportation safety board (TSB) examined the wreckage during a six-day visit before leaving Tehran on Sunday.

“There are still no firm plans as to when and where the aircraft recorders will be downloaded and analysed,” the TSB said in a statement.

Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said that he had written to his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday to urge the boxes be quickly sent to Ukraine or France.

“The wish of the international community is that the black boxes be sent where they should be sent ... to ensure we have proper technical expertise when [they] are opened,” he added.

Meanwhile, 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”.

Flight 752 was en route from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital when it crashed on 8 January. After initially denying responsibility, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards admitted it accidentally brought down the plane after mistaking it for a US cruise missile attack.

The confession deepened the crisis gripping Iran as thousands of people took to the streets in several cities to demand the resignation of president Hassan Rouhani and to criticise supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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