US, Boeing invited to Iran plane crash inquiry
Tehran had initially rejected involvement by the US and the plane's US-based manufacturer, saying it would not hand over the jet's black boxes to either party, but later backtracked in the face of allegations by Western leaders that Iran had downed the plane with a missile.
US, Canadian and British officials said on Thursday it was "highly likely" that Iran fired a surface-to-air missile at the plane, possibly mistakenly. The crash occurred just hours after Tehran launched ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of top general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike last week.
Iranian officials have categorically denied the reports, with government spokesman Ali Rabiei calling the claims "psychological warfare against Iran" and equivalent to rubbing "salt on a painful wound" for the families of the victims.
The state-run IRNA news agency said on Friday Boeing had been invited to participate in the investigation. The plane manufacturer has yet to comment on the crash.
On Thursday, the US National Transportation Safety Board said on its official Twitter account it had "received formal notification" of the crash and would participate in the probe.
Under United Nations rules, the NTSB is entitled to take part as the crash involved a Boeing 737-800 jet designed and built in the US.
"As with any investigation in which the NTSB is involved, the agency will not speculate about the cause of the crash," it said.The board's role could be limited by US sanctions on Iran. US officials have also expressed concern about sending employees to Iran because of the heightened tensions.
Ukraine has also been invited to take part in the crash investigation. Presidents Volodymyr Zelensky has said the "missile theory is not ruled out, but it has not been confirmed yet".
He has called on "all international partners" - the US, UK and Canada in particular - to share data and evidence relevant to the crash. He also announced plans to discuss the investigation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later on Friday.
"Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth," Zelensky said. "The value of human life is above all political motives."Tehran has also called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other governments to "provide any information they have to the investigation committee" after reports of an Iranian missile downing the airliner.
Iran will also welcome experts from other countries whose citizens died in the crash, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.
Many of those killed in the crash were Iranians or Iranian-Canadian dual citizens.
For his part, the head of Iran's national aviation department has said that there is "full coordination" between the country's air defences and the civil aviation system.
It is "absolutely impossible" for the armed forces to shoot down a civilian plane, Ali Abedzadeh said.