Iran Wants Dialogue, Working To ‘Prevent War’, Says Rouhani

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic republic’s President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 15, 2020. AFP

 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday he wants to avoid war after Tehran and Washington appeared on the brink of direct military confrontation in early January for the second time in less than a year.

Ahead of parliamentary elections on February 21 — predicted to be a challenge for Rouhani’s camp — and amid high tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran’s nuclear programme, the president said dialogue with the world was still “possible”.

“The government is working daily to prevent military confrontation or war,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.

The region seemed on the brink of new conflict earlier in January after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad, prompting Iran to retaliate against US military targets in Iraq with a volley of missiles days later.

The strike caused significant material damage but no casualties, according to the US military.

Rouhani said the strike amounted to “compensation” for the death of Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s Middle East military strategy.

The tensions between the two enemies seemed to subside in the wake of the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger airliner hours after the retaliatory strikes, as Iran was on high alert for US reprisals.

The tragedy killed 176 people, mostly Iranians and Canadians.

Canada’s foreign minister on Thursday vowed to push Iran for answers about the tragedy.

“Families want answers, the international community wants answers, the world is waiting for answers and we will not rest until we get them,” Francois-Philippe Champagne said in London.

Better governance 

Ottawa said earlier that US President Donald Trump’s policies had contributed to the heightened tensions that led to the catastrophe.

In June 2019, Iran and the US had also appeared to be on the brink of direct military confrontation after Tehran shot down a US drone it said had violated its airspace.

Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute.

The animosity between Washington and Tehran has increased since Trump withdrew the US from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed biting sanctions.

In Iran, the air disaster sparked outrage and anti-government demonstration took place every day from Saturday to Wednesday.

Concentrated in the capital, they appeared smaller than a wave of national protests in November. Prompted by a fuel price hike, those demonstrations were met with a crackdown that left at least 300 people dead, according to Amnesty International.

Rouhani implicitly acknowledged a crisis of confidence in authorities but looked to regain control on Wednesday, calling for “national unity”, better governance and more pluralism.

On Thursday, Rouhani also defended the policy of openness to the world that he has pursued since his first election in 2013, and which Iran’s ultra-conservatives criticise.

“Of course, it’s difficult,” he acknowledged, but he added, “the people elected us to lower tensions and animosity” between the Islamic republic and the world.

Rouhani said that with the nuclear deal “we have proven in practice that it is possible for us to interact with the world.”

Rouhani was speaking the day before supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is expected to lead the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran for the first time since 2012.

Khamenei, who maintains the West is not trustworthy, bans dialogue with Trump.

 ‘High school bully’ 

On Thursday, Rouhani said Iran’s “daily enrichment” of uranium was currently “higher” than before the conclusion of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Rouhani, who instigated the negotiations, made the comments while justifying his nuclear policy and Iran’s progressive disengagement from the accord. He also stated his willingness to continue dialogue on the agreement.

In response to the US withdrawal from the deal and sanctions, an increasingly frustrated Iran has hit back with a step-by-step suspension of its own commitments under the deal, which drastically limited its nuclear activities.

On Tuesday, Germany, the UK and France — the three European parties to the deal — announced they triggered a dispute mechanism in response to the latest step back from the deal by Tehran.

But Germany on Thursday confirmed a Washington Post report that the US had threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on imports of European cars if EU governments continued to back the nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the European parties of having “sold out” the deal to avoid trade reprisals from the US and said Trump was again behaving like a “high school bully”.

According to a European Union Statement, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Zarif in New Delhi on Thursday and urged Iran to “preserve” the increasingly fragile nuclear deal.

AFP

Dialogue Is Ongoing To Prevent War, Says Iran’s Rouhani

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency shows the Islamic republic’s President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 15, 2020. Iranian people “want diversity”, Rouhani said as he urged electoral authorities to refrain from disqualifying would-be candidates for a general election in February. “The people are our masters and we are its servants. The servant must address the master with modesty, precision, and honesty,” Rouhani said after a cabinet meeting.
IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

 

Iran’s president said Thursday dialogue with the world remained “possible” despite high tensions with the United States, and stressed that Tehran was working daily “to prevent military confrontation or war”.

Iran attacked US military targets in Iraq on January 8 to retaliate against Washington’s targeted killing of a key Iranian general five days earlier in Baghdad, at a time when both are also locked in a bitter dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“The government is working daily to prevent military confrontation or war,”

said in a televised speech, adding that dialogue with the international community was difficult but remained “possible”.

More to follow

AFP

Iran President Asks Armed Forces To Apologise Over Downed Plane

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 8, 2019, shows President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran.  AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has asked the armed forces to “apologise” after the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner last week.

He also wants the military authorities to explain what happened in the air disaster.

Speaking on Wednesday, the President called for “national unity” among Iranians following the tragic incident that sparked global outrage.

“The people want to make sure that the authorities treat them with sincerity, integrity and trust,” he said Rouhani.

Details later….

New Footage Shows Two Iranian Missiles Hitting Ukraine Plane

An image grab from footage obtained from the state-run Iran Press news agency on January 8, 2020 allegedly shows rockets launched from the Islamic republic against the US military base in Ein-al Asad in Iraq the prevous night.
IRAN PRESS / AFP

 

New video footage has emerged showing two Iranian missiles tearing through the night sky and hitting a Ukrainian passenger plane, sending the aircraft down in flames and killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

The projectiles were fired 30 seconds apart and explain why the plane’s transponder was not working as it hurtled to the ground — it was disabled by the first strike, before being hit by a second, said the New York Times, which published the verified security camera footage Tuesday.

The blurry film, shot from a rooftop in a village four miles from an Iranian military site, shows the Kiev-bound plane on fire and circling back to Tehran’s airport, the Times said. Minutes later, the aircraft exploded and crashed.

Iran had for days denied Western claims that the Boeing 737 had been downed by its missiles.

Tehran came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the Ukraine International Airlines plane for a cruise missile and opened fire.

READ ALSO: US Democrats Lock Horns Over War, Gender In Last Debate

The incident happened when Iran’s armed forces were on heightened alert after launching a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops in retaliation for the killing of top general Qasem Soleimani on January 3.

Iran has struggled to contain the fallout over its handling of the air disaster and the tragedy has seen hundreds of angry protesters, most of them students, take to the streets.

New videos circulating on social media purported to show fresh protests on Tuesday evening at universities in Tehran, along with clashes between students and Basij militia loyal to the establishment.

It was not possible to immediately verify the videos.

Earlier, AFP correspondents said around 200 mainly masked students gathered at Tehran University and were locked in a tense standoff with youths from the Basij.

Kept apart by security forces, the groups eventually parted ways.

Around 30 people have been arrested in the protests over the air disaster, according to judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

On Tuesday Tehran said it had made its first arrests over the shooting down of the plane, though it gave no details.

‘Real Rift’

Recent protests have been much smaller than nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes that turned deadly in November.

But one commentator said the latest rallies showed there was a “real rift between the people and the authorities”.

“I hope that (police restraint) will continue and that no lives are lost because this could be a catalyst for more protests,” Mehdi Rahmanian, director of reformist daily Shargh, told AFP.

In another sign of growing dissent, a group of artists canceled their participation in the Fajr festival, held each year on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Hamshahri newspaper.

President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday Iran’s judiciary “must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts… The whole world will be watching.”

“Anyone who should be punished must be punished”.

The office of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke to Canada’s premier Justin Trudeau on Tuesday for a third time since the crash, with the latter asking for help from Kiev in liaising with Iranian authorities to help identify bodies of Canadian citizens.

AFP

New Protests As Iran Makes First Arrests Over Downed Airliner

In this file photo taken on January 13, 2020 Iranian protesters hold flowers as riot police fire tear gas during a demonstration in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University. STR / AFP

 

Iran announced Tuesday its first arrests over the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, as protesters vented their anger over the catastrophic blunder for a fourth consecutive day.

Nearly two weeks after the US killed a top Iranian commander in Iraq, tensions with the West increased further as EU countries on Tuesday launched an arbitration process charging Tehran with failing to observe commitments in the 2015 nuclear deal, prompting Iran to warn of unspecified “consequences”.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

Iran has struggled to contain the fallout over its handling of the air disaster, after initially dismissing Western claims it was brought down by a missile before admitting it on Saturday.

The tragedy has seen hundreds of angry protesters, most of them students, take to the streets, apparently chanting slogans against the Islamic republic.

New videos circulating on social media purported to show fresh protests on Tuesday evening at universities in Tehran, along with clashes between students and Basij militia loyal to the establishment.

It was not possible to immediately verify the videos.

Earlier, AFP correspondents said around 200 mainly masked students gathered at Tehran University on Tuesday and were locked in a tense standoff with youths from the Basij.

“Death to Britain,” women clad in black chadours chanted as Basij members burned a cardboard cutout of the British ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire, after his brief arrest for allegedly attending a demonstration Saturday.

Kept apart by security forces, the groups eventually parted ways.

AFP journalists said there appeared to be a lower police presence on Tuesday compared to preceding days.

Internet connectivity was significantly lower than usual.

‘Real Rift’

The protests have been much smaller than nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes that turned deadly in November.

But one commentator said the latest rallies showed there was a “real rift between the people and the authorities”.

“I hope that (police restraint) will continue and that no lives are lost, because this could be a catalyst for more protests,” Mehdi Rahmanian, director of reformist daily Shargh, told AFP.

In another sign of growing dissent, a group of artists cancelled their participation in the Fajr festival, held each year on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Hamshahri newspaper, which is owned by Tehran City Hall.

Meanwhile, group of reformist journalists in Tehran published a statement denouncing the lack of freedom of the press and official media.

“We are attending the burial of public trust”, said the statement, which the official IRNA news agency reported on.

Even a key state TV personality, Elmira Sharifi, hit out at authorities on Twitter.

“At a time when you should come and give your apologies and explanations, you stay quiet! Why are you bringing us shame in front of the public?”.

Tehran had for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the Boeing 737 had been downed by a missile.

It came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the plane for a cruise missile and opened fire independently.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said the first arrests had been made over the air disaster, without naming them or specifying how many.

“Extensive investigations have been carried out and some people have been arrested,” he said.

Esmaili also said around 30 people had been arrested in the protests over the air disaster.

‘World Watching’

The announcement came shortly after President Hassan Rouhani said — in relation to the air disaster — “anyone who should be punished must be punished”.

“The judiciary must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts… The whole world will be watching,” he said.

“It cannot be that only the person who pressed the button is at fault. There are others.”

The Kiev-bound plane was shot down at a time when Iran’s armed forces were on heightened alert after launching a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops.

Iran fired the missiles in retaliation for a US drone strike on January 3 that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm.

Addressing that issue, Rouhani said while “the root of all sorrows goes back to America… this cannot be a reason for us not to look into all the root causes” of the air disaster.

The president also demanded officials explain why it took so long for authorities to announce the real cause of the air disaster.

But Rouhani said that for him it would be more important that Iranians are “assured that this incident will not be repeated”.

Iran has invited experts from Canada, France, Ukraine and the United States to take part in the probe.

The office of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he spoke to Canada’s premier Justin Trudeau on Tuesday for a third time since the crash, with the latter asking for help from Kiev in liaising with Iranian authorities to help identify bodies of Canadian citizens.

Also on the diplomatic front, Britain on Monday summoned Iran’s ambassador to lodge its “strong objections” after its Tehran envoy, Macaire, was temporarily arrested for allegedly attending a demonstration on Sunday night.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman on Tuesday described Macaire as a “persona non grata” and said his “obligations under international treaties are clear”.

Saving Iran Deal ‘More Important Than Ever’ – EU

 

The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday urged all parties to the Iran nuclear accord to save it, saying escalating tensions made the deal “more important than ever.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs high representative, spoke after Britain, France and Germany formally triggered a dispute mechanism under the accord, after Iran announced its fifth major step back from compliance.

The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

Borrell, who will oversee the dispute mechanism which could ultimately lead to reimposition of UN sanctions, said the aim of the process was to save the deal, not sink it.

“The dispute resolution mechanism requires intensive efforts in good faith by all. As the coordinator, I expect all JCPOA participants to approach this process in that spirit,” he said, using an acronym for the deal’s formal title.

“In light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East, the preservation of the JCPOA is now more important than ever,” he said.

The former Spanish foreign minister stressed that there was “no alternative” to the existing accord, which took a decade of hard-fought negotiations to agree.

“The aim of the dispute resolution mechanism is not to reimpose sanctions. The aim of this mechanism is to resolve issues related to the implementation of the agreement,” Borrell told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“Let me say this clearly: the dispute resolution mechanism that is being triggered now is not about reimposing sanctions.”

In launching the process, Britain, France and Germany accused Tehran of repeated violations of the deal but insisted they remained committed to it.

But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he would be willing to work on a “Trump deal” to replace the existing accord. Borrell refused to comment on the idea when asked.

US President Donald Trump dealt a devastating blow to the Iran deal — struck by his predecessor Barack Obama — by unilaterally withdrawing from it in May 2018 and reimposing swingeing sanctions.

All Responsible For Air Disaster Will Be Punished, Says Iran President

 

A handout picture provided by the official website of the Iranian Presidency on January 12, 2020 shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a joint press conference with the Emir of Qatar in Tehran. IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP
A handout picture provided by the official website of the Iranian Presidency on January 12, 2020 shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a joint press conference with the Emir of Qatar in Tehran. IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that everyone responsible for the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week must be punished.

“For our people it is very important in this incident that anyone who was at fault or negligent at any level” face justice, he said in a televised speech.

“Anyone who should be punished must be punished,” said Rouhani.

“The judiciary must form a special court with high-ranking judge and dozens of experts… The whole world will be watching.”

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff from Tehran last Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

READ ALSO: Iran Missile Operator Had 10 Seconds To Decide After ‘Communication Jam’: Guards

Iran for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the airliner had been downed by a missile before acknowledging that version was correct on Saturday.

It has come under mounting international pressure to ensure its investigation into the tragedy is full and transparent.

The authorities’ handling of the air disaster and has also angered people in Iran.

Videos posted on social networks on Monday purported to show people taking to the streets for a third consecutive day, with demonstrators apparently shouting slogans against the Islamic republic.

 

AFP

US Calls On Iran To Apologize For Arresting UK Ambassador

 

 

The United States called Saturday on Iran to apologize for detaining the British ambassador to Tehran, reportedly during protests against the regime.

“This violates the Vienna Convention, which the regime has a notorious history of violating. We call on the regime to formally apologize to the UK for violating his rights and to respect the rights of all diplomats,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted.

Downed Plane: Britain’s Envoy In Iran Denies Attending Protest Before Arrest

Iranians students demonstrate following a tribute for the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 in front of the Amirkabir University in the capital Tehran, on January 11, 2020. AFP

 

Britain’s ambassador to Tehran denied Sunday that he took part in a demonstration that broke out at a memorial for the 176 people killed when a plane was shot down.

Students held a gathering at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University on Saturday evening to honour those killed hours after Iran admitted the Ukrainian airliner was downed by mistake.

Iran’s Mehr news agency said the ambassador, Rob Macaire, was arrested for his alleged “involvement in provoking suspicious acts” at the gathering in front of the university.

On Sunday, Iran confirmed his arrest as a foreigner at “an illegal gathering”, but said he was released soon after being identified.

“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy,” Macaire said on Twitter, adding he had been detained half an hour after leaving the area.

“Normal to want to pay respects — some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting,” he said.

“Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries,” he added.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister on Sunday confirmed Macaire had been arrested but said he was freed soon after being identified.

“He wasn’t detained, but arrested as unknown foreigner in an illegal gathering,” Seyed Abbas Araghchi tweeted, adding Macaire was released 15 minutes after he called the British diplomat to confirm his identity.

The British government said Macaire was arrested and detained briefly in the Iranian capital in what it called a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Iran’s armed forces said on Saturday the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 was mistakenly shot down, after denying for days Western claims it was brought down by a missile.

Police dispersed students who chanted “radical” and “destructive” slogans when the tribute to those killed in the air disaster turned into an angry demonstration, Fars news agency reported.

AFP

Iran’s Top General Briefs Lawmakers Over Downed Ukrainian Jet

This handout picture provided by the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (ICANA) on January 7, 2020 shows Iranian lawmakers raising their hands to vote during a parliamentary session in Tehran.  ICANA NEWS AGENCY / AFP

 

Iran’s top Guards commander briefed parliament on Sunday, a day after the armed forces said a Ukrainian airliner was shot down in error in an admission that sparked an angry demonstration.

His closed-session testimony comes after the temporary arrest Saturday of Britain’s ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire, shortly after he left a vigil for the air disaster victims that turned into a protest.

On the day after the rally at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, tensions appeared to be mounting again on the streets of the capital, with a heavy police presence notably around the iconic Azadi Square south of the centre.

Riot police armed with water cannon and batons were seen at Amir Kabir, Sharif and Tehran universities as well as Enqelab Square. Around 50 Basij militiamen brandishing paintball guns, potentially to mark protesters to authorities, were also seen near Amir Kabir.

The military acknowledged Saturday that the Ukraine International Airlines plane was mistakenly shot down Wednesday, killing all 176 people aboard, after denying for days Western claims it was downed by a missile.

The majority of those on the Boeing 737, which slammed into a field shortly after take-off from Tehran, were Iranians and Canadians, and many were students.

World leaders welcomed Iran’s admission, but Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others have also called for a full and transparent investigation.

The Kiev-bound plane was shot down at a time when Iran’s armed forces were on a heightened state of alert after launching a volley of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraqi military bases.

Iran had vowed to exact “severe revenge” for the January 3 US drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm.

Student protest 

The Guards’ top commander, Major General Hossein Salami, briefed parliament about the general’s killing, Iran’s retaliation and the downing of the airliner, semi-official news agency ISNA said.

At the end of the session, speaker Ali Larijani asked the Majles’ security and foreign policy commission to examine the air disaster and how to prevent such incidents from occurring again, ISNA said.

On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737.

The Guards’ aerospace commander General Amirali Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility.

In the evening, a memorial at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University in honour of those killed turned into a demonstration that, AFP correspondents said, was attended by hundreds of students.

They shouted “death to liars” and demanded the resignation and prosecution of those responsible for downing the plane and allegedly covering up the accidental action.

Fars news agency said police “dispersed” them as they left the university and blocked streets, causing a traffic jam.

US President Donald Trump warned Iran against cracking down.

“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he tweeted.

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” Trump said in a comment directed at protesters.

The latest demonstrations follow a crackdown on street violence that erupted across Iran over fuel price hikes in November. Amnesty International has said more than 300 were killed.

Calls for sackings 

Newspapers called for resignations and sackings over the handling of the air disaster.

Sazandegi, a moderate conservative publication, also apologised to its readers for having trusted official sources on the matter.

“Apologise, resign,” said the main headline of the reformist Etemad daily.

“Unforgivable,” said government newspaper Iran, which published all the names of those who died in the air disaster on the image of black plane tail.

Kayhan, a hardline daily, led on the supreme leader’s “strict orders” to follow up on the “painful incident of the plane crash”.

As public anger grew, state television aired interviews with people who it said “have not forgotten everything the Guards have done for the country”.

Britain’s ambassador to Tehran meanwhile took to Twitter to deny he had attended the demonstration before being arrested.

“Can confirm I wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations! Went to an event advertised as a vigil for victims of #PS752 tragedy,” Macaire said, adding he had been detained half an hour after leaving the area.

“Normal to want to pay respects — some of victims were British. I left after 5 mins, when some started chanting,” he tweeted.

The arrest triggered diplomatic protests, with London calling it a violation of international law and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell added his voice to the chorus of condemnation.

“Very concerned about the temporary detention of the UK Ambassador @HMATehran in Iran. Full respect of the Vienna convention is a must. The EU calls for de-escalation and space for diplomacy,” Borrell tweeted.

Iran’s Mehr news agency said Macaire was arrested for his alleged “involvement in provoking suspicious acts” at the gathering in front of the university.

AFP

Trump Warns Iran Against ‘Massacre’ As Protests Erupt Over Jetliner Downing

A file photo of US President, Donald Trump. AFP Photo.

 

 

US President Donald Trump said Saturday the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely, warning against any new “massacre” as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane.

Iran said earlier it unintentionally downed a Ukrainian jetliner outside Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially denying Western claims it was struck by a missile. The firing came shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing American forces.

President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found “missiles fired due to human error” brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”

At a student protest to pay tribute to the crash victims on Saturday, Iranian authorities briefly detained Britain’s ambassador, in what the British government called a violation of international law. He was later released.

Trump told Iranians — in tweets in both English and Farsi — that he stands by them and is monitoring the demonstrations.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you,” he tweeted.

“There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added, apparently referring to an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November.

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he said.

The new demonstrations follow an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November. Amnesty International has said it left more than 300 people dead.

Internet access was reportedly cut off in multiple Iranian provinces ahead of memorials planned a month after the protests.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded that Iran provide “full clarity” on the downing of the plane. Ottawa says the dead included 57 Canadians.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also offered his condolences and ordered the armed forces to address “shortcomings” so that such a disaster does not happen again.

Tehran’s acknowledgment came after officials in Iran denied for days Western claims that the Ukraine International Airlines plane had been struck by a missile in a catastrophic error.

The Kiev-bound jet slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday.

The crash came hours after Tehran launched missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike.

Fears grew of an all-out war between Iran and its arch-enemy the United States, but those concerns have subsided after Trump said Tehran appeared to be standing down after targeting the US bases.

Protesters ‘dispersed’

On Saturday evening, police dispersed students who had converged on Amir Kabir University in Tehran to pay tribute to the victims, after some among the hundreds gathered shouted “destructive” slogans, Fars news agency said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said UK envoy Rob Macaire had been detained.

“The arrest of our ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Raab said in a statement. The US called on Iran to apologize.

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which is close to the country’s conservatives, said the envoy had been “provoking radical acts” among students. He was released a few hours later and would be summoned again by Iranian officials on Sunday, it said.

State television reported that students shouted “anti-regime” chants, while Fars reported that posters of Soleimani had been torn down.

The aerospace commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accepted full responsibility for Wednesday’s accident.

But Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said the missile operator acted independently, targeting the 737 after mistaking it for a “cruise missile”.

The operator failed to obtain approval from his superiors because of disruptions to a communications system, he said.

“He had 10 seconds to decide. He could have decided to strike or not to strike and under such circumstances, he took the wrong decision.”

Justice, compensation

Iran had been under mounting international pressure to allow a “credible” investigation after video emerged appearing to show the moment the airliner was hit.

In footage that the New York Times said it had verified, a fast-moving object is seen rising into the sky before a bright flash appears. Several seconds later, an explosion is heard.

Iran’s military said it had been at the highest level of alert after American “threats” and that the plane had turned and come close to a “sensitive” military site before it was targeted due to “human error.”

Rouhani said Iran had been on alert for possible US attacks after Soleimani’s “martyrdom.”

Rouhani added he had ordered “all relevant bodies to take all necessary actions (to ensure) compensation” to the families of those killed.

The majority of passengers on Flight PS752 were Iranians and Canadians, including dual nationals, while Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons, and Swedes were also aboard.

Rouhani told his Ukrainian counterpart Saturday that “all the persons involved in this air disaster will be brought to justice,” Ukraine’s presidency said.

This is Iran’s worst civil aviation disaster since 1988 when the US military said it shot down an Iran Airplane over the Gulf by mistake, killing all 290 people on board.

Ukraine President To Speak With Iran’s Rouhani Over Downing Of Plane

A photo combination of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. AFP

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was due to speak on the phone with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Saturday after Tehran admitted downing a Ukrainian airliner, officials said.

Zelensky scheduled a “telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for 5 pm (1500 GMT),” Zelensky’s presidential press office said in a statement.

Tehran admitted Saturday that it accidentally downed the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane, killing all 176 people on board on Wednesday, shortly after launching missiles at bases hosting US forces in Iraq.

Rouhani said that Tehran “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake”.

READ ALSO: Iran Guards Commander Accepts Responsibility For Shooting Down Ukrainian Plane

Tehran has now provided Ukrainian experts with enough data including “all the photos, videos, and other materials” to show the probe into the downing of the passenger jet “will be carried out objectively and promptly,” Zelensky’s office said.

Zelensky earlier Saturday demanded that Iran provide “total access” to the full inquiry for Ukrainian aviation experts and security officials sent to investigate the crash on the president’s request.

He also called for Tehran to punish those responsible for the accidental downing, pay compensation and apologise.

Iran’s downing of the plane comes after a Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 with the loss of 296 people on board.

Investigators say a Russian-made BUK missile fired by pro-Russian separatists was to blame and the trial of four people over the crash is due to start in the Netherlands in March.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the plane’s downing.

AFP