Iran to send Ukraine jet black boxes to France 'soon': Trudeau

AFP , Tuesday 16 Jun 2020

FILE PHOTO: General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 7
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 (Reuters)

Iran has said it will "soon" send France the black boxes of a Ukrainian jetliner its forces mistakenly shot down in January, Canada's prime minister said Tuesday.

"The black boxes are supposed to be sent to France soon," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing, adding that the coronavirus pandemic had delayed the handover.

"We're going to continue to put pressure on the Iranian regime alongside our international partners to get answers, to get justice, to get compensation for the families," he added.

The prime minister said he raised the analysis of the black boxes in a telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky "a couple of days ago."

Many of the passengers on board the downed airliner were Canadian, and Ottawa has demanded for months that Iran, which does not have the technical means to decode the black boxes, send the items abroad so that their content can be analyzed.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was struck by two missiles and crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran's airport on January 8.

The Islamic republic admitted days later that its forces accidentally shot down the Kiev-bound jetliner, killing all 176 people on board.

Tehran's air defenses had been on high alert at the time in case the US retaliated against Iranian strikes hours earlier on American troops stationed in Iraq.

Those strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport.

The black boxes are expected to contain information about the last moments before the aircraft was struck.

On Monday, Iran said the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen most international flights canceled, had slowed its plans to send the black boxes overseas.

"From the first days of this painful incident, we announced our readiness to cooperate in investigating the black boxes of the Ukrainian plane," Iran government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.

He said they would be sent to either Ukraine or France to be read, adding: "We will resume this process with the gradual resumption of international flights and the clarification of the results of the negotiations" between Iran and others involved.

According to sources close to the investigation, the Iranian envoy to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal last week said the Islamic republic had enlisted the help of France's BEA air accident agency to download and read the data on the flight recorder.

BEA initially denied that it had been asked.

Questioned by AFP on Tuesday, the BEA said it was awaiting a formal request from Iran, adding that it was "ready to provide technical assistance."

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