< Iran Denies Shooting Down Ukrainian Plane
By Hai Do
10 January 2020

Iran has denied reports that one of its missiles hit a Ukrainian passenger airplane.

The Ukraine International Airlines jet crashed earlier this week near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

Iranian officials called on the United States and Canada Friday to share any information they have on the crash.

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of a Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.
Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of a Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

The plane broke up just hours after Iran launched missiles at two air bases in neighboring Iraq. The bases housed U.S. troops. Iran launched the attacks to answer the killing of its top general in a U.S. airstrike last week.

The downed aircraft was carrying 63 Canadians. On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile." He noted the information came from several intelligence sources.

U.S. officials said that Iran might have mistakenly identified the Boeing 737 as a threat.

Ali Abedzadeh is head of Iran's national aviation office. He said Friday, "What we can say with certainty is that no missile hit the plane." He urged Western nations to, in his words, "come and show their findings to the world."

Western governments may not be ready to share the information because it comes from highly classified intelligence sources. However, The Associated Press, The New York Times and other media companies released videos appearing to show something hitting a plane near Tehran's main airport.

In one video from The Associated Press, someone off camera says: "The plane has caught fire...In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. God, please help us. Call the fire department!" The comments were made in Farsi, the official language of Iran.

Recovering the black boxes

Shortly after the crash, Iran reported the recovery of the plane's flight recorders -- or black boxes.

Abedzadeh announced, "We prefer to download the black boxes in Iran. But if we see that we can't do that because the boxes are damaged, then we will seek help."

The head of the Iranian investigation team said that the process could take more than a month and that the investigation could stretch into next year.

Under United Nations aviation rules, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, can join the investigation because the crash involved an airplane designed and built in the U.S.

The NTSB said Thursday night that its involvement could be limited by U.S. sanctions on Iran. U.S. officials have expressed concern about sending employees to Iran because of the heightened tensions.

Iran had first said it would not let Boeing -- the plane's manufacturer -- take part in the investigation. The state-operated IRNA news agency later reported that Iran "has invited both Ukraine and the Boeing company to participate in the investigations."

In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said "the missile theory is not ruled out, but it has not been confirmed yet." The government said it wanted to search the crash site for any sign of a Russian-made missile used by Iran.

A preliminary Iranian report released Thursday noted that the plane's pilots never made a radio call for help. The report said that an emergency problem happened just minutes after the flight left Tehran.

The plane reportedly was heading to a nearby airport before it crashed.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

on board - n. in or on a plane, train, boat...

indicate - v. to show (something): to show that (something) exists or is true

source - n. someone or something that provides information

aviation - n. the business or practice of flying

certainty - n. a fact about which there is no doubt

classified - adj. kept secret from all but a few people in government

merciful - adj. Kind and forgiving; not cruel or harsh; having or showing mercy

prefer - v. to like better or best

sanctions - n. economic or military measures designed to force a nation to do something or stop doing something

participate - v. to take part

preliminary - adj. coming before the main part of something

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