Iran has said it will allow Boeing representatives to inspect the flight recorders from the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 that crashed moments after take-off from Tehran this week.
The move comes as Iran attempts to fend off allegations that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile mistakenly brought down the passenger jet on Tuesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew.
Ali Rabiei, Iran’s government spokesman, said Boeing could send its representative “to participate in the procedure of examining the black box”. Other officials said the aircraft manufacturer had named a representative but had not clarified whether that person would travel to Iran.
The jet crashed hours after Iran launched missile strikes at American forces in neighbouring Iraq in retaliation for the US killing of Revolutionary Guard commander, Qassem Soleimani.
On Thursday, the US, UK and Canada said Iranian missiles could have hit the Kyiv-bound aircraft by mistake. Speaking from the White House, US president Donald Trump said: “It is a tragic thing. Somebody could have made a mistake. The other side could have made a mistake.”
Mr Rabiei said the US “psychological warfare” was a familiar tactic to overshadow Iran’s retaliation for the US drone attack that killed Soleimani last week.
Iran is battling what it sees as a conspiracy to divert attention away from its successful missile attacks on US forces and to prevent a further decline in Boeing’s shares, which had already fallen in the past 18 months in the wake of crashes involving two of its aircraft.
Tehran says it has the software and hardware to examine the aircraft’s black boxes and insists it should lead the investigation into the crash, which took place on its territory, as is its right under International Civil Aviation Organization rules.
Iranian officials said if the flight recorders were damaged their data could be downloaded in Ukraine, Russia, France and Canada.
On Friday, Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation, said: “We trust American and Canadian aviation experts. They can send any report that they think is right from a technical point of view to the ICAO and their views can be announced to the world. What I can say confidently is that no missile hit the plane.”
He added that the aircraft was in flames for one and a half minutes while the pilot tried to return to the airport without contacting the control tower.
On Friday, Ukraine said it could not confirm that the plane had been hit by anti-aircraft missiles.
In a statement, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, said: “The version about a rocket hitting the plane is not being ruled out, but as of today it is not confirmed.
“Taking into account the recent statements to media by leaders of other countries, we urge all international partners — especially the governments of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom — to submit data and evidence relating to the disaster to the commission for investigation into the cause.”
Referring to a telephone conversation with Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, due to take place on Friday afternoon, Mr Zelensky added: “Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth . . . We consider it a responsibility of the entire international community to the families of the victims and the memory of the victims of the disaster.”
Iran’s state television has repeatedly shown pictures of the aircraft’s flight recorders, which officials say will be readable despite minor damage. Three Iranian airlines — Qeshm Air, Mahan and Aseman — are in charge of examining the black boxes.
On Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry said a 10-member Canadian delegation was on its way to Iran to look into its nationals’ cases killed in the crash.