Tehran has challenged Western leaders to prove that an Iranian missile downed a Ukrainian airliner, describing the claims as “psychological warfare” against the Islamic republic, the New York Post reports.
“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” said Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.
“If they are really sure, they should come and show their findings to the world,” he added, according to Sky News.
Officials in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia have said that the most likely explanation for the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 is that it was hit by a Russian-made Tor M-1 surface-to-air missile.
All 176 people aboard were killed when the plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Among the dead were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and four Britons.
In addition to existing intelligence, a video appears to show the moment the Boeing 737-800 was struck by a missile.
The footage shows a ball of fire coming from left to right — the missile — and the plane is seen more clearly coming from the opposite direction. A few seconds later, an explosion is heard.
Western leaders say the downing appears to have been unintentional, occurring just hours after Iran launched 22 ballistic missiles at two bases housing US troops in Iraq to avenge the killing of top military commander Qassem Soleimani.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference: “We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own intelligence.
“The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. This may well have been unintentional,” he said.
Similar statements were made by President Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was slightly more cautious, saying on Friday that the possibility of the jet having been shot down by a missile had neither been confirmed nor ruled out.
Meanwhile, the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying Tehran “has invited both Ukraine and the Boeing company to participate in the investigations.”
He later said a 10-member Canadian delegation was heading to Iran to help victims’ families.
Iran had initially said it would not allow Boeing to take part in the probe, going against international guidelines on crash investigations. It later invited the American accident-investigating agency to take part in the investigation.
On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board said it would “evaluate its level of participation,” but its role could be limited by US sanctions on Iran.
American officials also have expressed concern about sending employees to Iran because of the heightened tensions.
Under rules set by a UN aviation organization, the NTSB is entitled to participate because the crash involved a Boeing jet that was designed and built in the US.
The French air accident investigation agency, known by the French acronym BEA, also is taking part in the investigation. The plane’s engine was designed by CFM International, a joint company between French group Safran and US group GE Aviation.