Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a global conference in New Delhi, India. Picture: AP Photo/Manish Swarup
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a global conference in New Delhi, India. Picture: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Iran's foreign minister accuses officials of lying about downing of Ukrainian plane

By Joanna Slater, Kareem Fahim Time of article published Jan 15, 2020

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New Delhi - Iran's foreign minister, addressing days of unrest in his country, said Wednesday that demonstrators were angry at being "lied to" following the accidental downing of a Ukrainian plane last week that killed all 176 people on board.

The comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to Iran's refusal for days to disclose the cause of the crash, after an Iranian air defense battery shot down the plane. The incident occurred during a week of heightened military tensions with the United States.

Iran's belated admission that it had targeted the aircraft accidentally set off student-led protests and rare criticism of Iran's clerical leadership from some government loyalists.

"We've had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days," Zarif said at the Raisina Dialogue, an annual foreign policy conference in New Delhi.

"Our military forces were brave enough to claim responsibility early on. But people are angry even with those two days. That is the expectation that people have with the government - that the government should have disclosed the information," he said.

"Why did it happen? Because there was a crisis," he added. And in a crisis, "people make mistakes, unforgivable mistakes." He said the loss of life in the incident "was because of tensions created by the United States."

His comments came a day after Iran's judiciary said it had arrested "some individuals" in connection with the downing of the Ukrainian airliner, without providing more detail. President Hassan Rouhani also called Tuesday for the creation of a special court to hear the case because of international scrutiny as well as Iranian demands for justice.

The shoot-down killed 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, including the crew. Most, if not all, of the Canadians were reported to be of Iranian origin or dual nationals.

Iran's state media reported Wednesday that Britain's ambassador to Tehran, Robert Macaire, has left the country for undisclosed reasons. Macaire was briefly detained on Saturday in Tehran after attending what had been planned as a "vigil" for the victims aboard the Boeing 737-800.

He was "summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday for 'unconventional behavior' inconsistent with his diplomatic status and being present in an 'illegal gathering,'" the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported, adding that he departed Iran on Tuesday.

The Washington Post

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