January 19th, 2020

Top Iran diplomat: People ‘were lied to’ over jetliner crash

By Emily Schmall And Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press on January 15, 2020.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 file photo, bodies of victims of a Ukrainian plane crash are collected by rescue team at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Two U.S. officials said Thursday that it was “highly likely” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner late Tuesday, killing all 176 people on board. President Donald Trump is suggesting he believes Iran was responsible. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

NEW DELHI – Iran’s top diplomat acknowledged Wednesday that Iranians “were lied to” for days following the Islamic Republic accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing 176 people.

The comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi represent the first time an Iranian official referred to the earlier story that a technical malfunction downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight as a lie.

The shootdown has sparked days of angry protests in the country.

“In the last few nights, 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.

Zarif went onto praise Iran’s military for being “brave enough to claim responsibility early on.”

However, he said that he and President Hassan Rouhani only learned that a missile had down the flight on Friday, raising new questions over how much power Iran’s civilian government has in its Shiite theocracy. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which shot down the aircraft, knew immediately afterward its missile downed the airline.

The Guard is answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is expected to preside over Friday prayers in Iran for the first time in years over anger about the crash.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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