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Iran grants Canada investigators access to downed plane: AFP

Iran grants Canada investigators access to downed plane: AFP

14 January 2020 | 01:34 | FOCUS News Agency
Ottawa. Canadian investigators flying to Tehran on Monday will access the wreckage and black boxes from a Ukranian jetliner downed by a missile strike last week, officials said, as cited by AFP.

"We don't fully know what the scope of our investigation will be," Transportation Safety Board (TSB) chair Kathy Fox told a press conference.

However, she added, "there have been early signs that Iran is allowing the TSB to play a more active role than is normally permitted."

Two Canadian investigators were to land in Tehran within hours, followed by two more in the coming days or weeks.

They have been invited by Iran, which is leading the crash probe, to participate in the downloading and analysis of the aircraft's cockpit voice and data recorders.
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TASS: Iranian authorities learned cause of Ukrainian plane crash only on January 10

TASS: Iranian authorities learned cause of Ukrainian plane crash only on January 10

13 January 2020 | 15:31 | FOCUS News Agency
Sofia. Iran’s authorities learned that the Ukrainian passenger jet had been shot down by mistake by the country’s own missile defense systems only on January 10, in other words, the day before it was officially admitted, Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabei said on Monday, as cited by TASS.

"The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces received the results of the probe only on Friday and the Supreme National Security Council gathered for a meeting on the same day," IRIB quoted him as saying. "No one, including the country’s President Hassan Rouhani, knew the cause of the plane’s crash before January 10."

According to the spokesperson, as soon as the president was informed about the cause of the tragedy, he immediately took a decision to come out with an address to the nation.

On January 8, a Boeing-737 of the Ukrainian International Airlines bound for Kiev crashed minutes after takeoff at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport. The crash claimed the lives of all 176 people on board, among them citizens of Afghanistan, Germany, Iran, Canada and Ukraine, in addition to British and Swedish nationals.

On January 11, Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff released a statement admitting that the plane had been mistakenly shot down. According to Iranian Brigadier-General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the plane was misidentified as a cruise missile by the air defense force.
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 Trump warns Iran not to kill protesters, door still open to talks

Trump warns Iran not to kill protesters, door still open to talks

13 January 2020 | 08:27 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. US President Donald Trump warned Iran Sunday against killing protesters who have risen up over the regime's downing of a civilian airliner as his defense secretary left the door open to talks with Tehran without preconditions.

Trump's salvo came as Iran's Islamic regime faced a challenge from angry street protests, having come to the brink of war with the US after a series of tit-for-tat confrontations.

"To the leaders of Iran -- DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS," Trump tweeted, warning that the world and "more importantly, the USA is watching."

In an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" just before the tweet, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Trump was still willing to hold talks with Iran's leaders.

"We're willing to sit down and discuss without precondition a new way forward, a series of steps by which Iran becomes a more normal country," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on CBS's "Face the Nation".

And if something happened to the protesters? Esper replied: "The president has drawn no preconditions other than to say we're willing to meet with the Iranian government."

Long-standing US-Iran tensions have soared since January 3 when missiles fired from a US drone killed a top Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani, near Baghdad's airport.

Iran responded with a barrage of missiles at two US bases in Iraq, inflicting no casualties in what was seen as an attempt to prevent a spiral of escalation.

But hours later, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet shortly after takeoff from Tehran.

The death of all 176 people aboard and Iran's belated admission its forces mistook the plane for a cruise missile has set off angry protests against the regime.

The British ambassador to Iran was briefly arrested Saturday after attending a memorial service for the victims at Tehran's Amir Kabir University.

- 'Reeling' -

"I just think you see a very corrupt regime that the Iranian people are finally standing up and trying to hold them accountable," Esper said.

On another Sunday talk show, national security advisor Robert O'Brien said the Iranian regime was "reeling from maximum pressure."

"They are reeling from their incompetence in this situation. And the people of Iran are just fed up with it," he said on ABC's "This Week".

"Iran is being choked off, and Iran is going to have no other choice but to come to the table."

Trump late Sunday slapped O'Brien down, saying, "Actually, I couldn't care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them."

Meanwhile, said Esper, the US believes it has disrupted the plots that it says precipitated Soleimani's killing, and expects no further Iranian retaliation.

Esper and O'Brien defended the intelligence that led the administration to claim Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on US troops and diplomats in the region.

But other than in the case of the US embassy in Baghdad, Esper would not confirm Trump's claim that four US embassies in the region were among Soleimani's targets.

Asked if there was specific evidence in the intelligence to support the claim, Esper said, "I didn't see one with regard to four embassies."

- 'Fudging intelligence' -

The administration has come under fire from Democrats -- and at least two Republican senators -- for refusing to share the intelligence with members of Congress.

Senior congressional leaders -- the so-called Gang of Eight -- were briefed January 8 as skepticism mounted about the administration's rationale for a killing that raised the risk of war with Iran.

"We had exquisite intelligence and the intelligence showed that they were looking at US facilities throughout the region," O'Brien said on NBC's "Meet the Press". "The threat was imminent."

Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was no discussion in the briefing given to the Gang of Eight about plots against four embassies.

"In the view of the briefers, there was plotting, there was an effort to escalate, a big plan, but they didn't have specificity," he said.

"So when you hear the president out there on Fox, he is fudging intelligence," he said on "Face the Nation".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the congressional leadership should have been informed of the strike against Soleimani in advance.

"I don't think the administration has been straight with the Congress of the United States," she said on "Meet the Press".
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AFP: Iran agrees de-escalation 'only solution' to solve crisis with US

AFP: Iran agrees de-escalation 'only solution' to solve crisis with US

13 January 2020 | 00:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Tehran. Iran signalled Sunday it favours a de-escalation after 10 days of heightened tensions with the United States during which both sides fired missiles and Tehran accidentally shot down a passenger aircraft, AFP reports. Security was stepped up in Iran's capital after a vigil the previous night for those killed in the air disaster turned into an angry protest and police temporarily arrested the British ambassador for being there.

US President Donald Trump warned Iran against harming demonstrators and against a repeat of a deadly crackdown against rallies in November sparked by a fuel price hike.
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 Thousands of Iraqis rally against government, Iran and US

Thousands of Iraqis rally against government, Iran and US

10 January 2020 | 16:29 | FOCUS News Agency
Baghdad. Thousands of Iraqis rallied across the country on Friday, reviving a months-long protest movement against the government and adding criticisms of both the US and Iran to their chants, AFP reported.

The anti-regime demonstrations had been overshadowed recently by spiralling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which led each country to carry out strikes against the other's assets in Iraq over the last week.

Fearing their movement would be eclipsed by war, Iraqi activists posted calls on social media in recent days for a mass protest on Friday, which marked the inverse date, 10/1, of the first rallies on October 1, or 1/10.

Iraqis turned out across the country, with hundreds streaming into the capital's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the anti-regime movement, AFP journalists said.

"Screw Iran! Screw America!" they cried out in the iconic square, still lined with tents and stalls set up three months ago.

Thousands more took to the streets in the country's Shiite-majority south, including the main protest hotspots of Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah, the oil-rich port city of Basra and the twin shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.

Protesters in Karbala clashed overnight with security forces and others were arrested in Basra on Friday.

"By relaunching the protests, we're showing our commitment to the demands of the October revolution: that our leaders stop monopolising our country's resources," said Haydar Kazem, protesting in Nasiriyah.

Iraq is OPEC's second-largest crude producer, but one in five people live in poverty and unemployment is rife among youth, according to the World Bank.

Transparency International ranks Iraq the 12th most corrupt country in the world.

Outraged by government graft and inequality, Iraqis launched an anti-regime protest movement in October that saw unprecedented numbers hit the streets.

But the rallies were met with violence, with nearly 460 people killed and more than 25,000 wounded since they began.

The protests began to slip out of the spotlight in late December after a US contractor was killed in a rocket attack on a northern Iraqi military base where American and other international troops are stationed.

The US blamed a hardline group in the Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network incorporated into the Iraqi state, and launched an air strike that killed 25 Hashed fighters.

Supporters of the group then besieged the US embassy in Baghdad and days later, the US killed a top Iranian commander and the Hashed's deputy chief in a drone strike outside the Baghdad airport.

In retaliation, Iran launched ballistic missiles on Iraqi bases where US and coalition forces are stationed.

The rallies persisted throughout the developments, but shifted to include calls for Iraq to be spared any conflict between Iran and the US, both of them allies of Iraq.
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Iran ready to grant all interested parties access to Boeing crash probe

Iran ready to grant all interested parties access to Boeing crash probe

10 January 2020 | 13:18 | FOCUS News Agency
Tehran. Iranian authorities are ready to allow all sides concerned to participate in the investigation into the causes of the Ukrainian Boeing 737 crash, TASS reported, citing the IRNA news agency.

Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabii said, “In accordance with international rules, the investigation of the crash can involve the civil aviation organization of the country where the incident took place, the civil aviation organization of the country that issued the airworthiness certificate (Ukraine), the plane’s owner (Ukraine), the plane’s manufacturer (Boeing) and the aircraft engines’ producer (France).” Moreover, Tehran is willing to grant access to representatives of other countries whose citizens died in the crash to take part in the investigation.

According to Rabii, a Ukrainian representative is currently in Iran. By the same token, the spokesperson advised the United Sates “to abandon disseminating false information about the tragedy,” IRNA notes.

On Wednesday, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 travelling from Tehran to Kiev crashed near the Iranian capital shortly after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport. All people onboard, 167 passengers and nine crewmembers lost their lives. Most were Canadian and Iranian citizens. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadim Pristaiko announced on his Twitter page that citizens of Iran, Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, German and the UK were among those who died in the air tragedy.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he doubted a technical malfunction is to blame for the catastrophe. Newsweek and other leading US media outlets then reported that Iran could have downed the passenger jet by mistake, citing sources. At the same time, Chief Executive of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh said that Iranian experts have dismissed the version of a possible missile strike as the cause for the disaster near Tehran’s airport, citing the investigation’s preliminary results.
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Nancy Pelosi rips up Donald Trump&#8217s State of the Union address.
Nancy Pelosi rips up Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
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