World demands full account after Iran admits downing Ukraine jet

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Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of a Ukrainian plane crash in Shahedshahr near Tehran on Jan. 8. Iran has invited the US, Ukraine, Canada to join the crash investigation. (AP)
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A view shows the area after the Boeing 737-800 plane, flight PS 752, crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, in this handout Maxar's WorldView-3 satellite image obtained January 11, 2020. (Reuters)
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A handout picture provided by the Iranian Red Crescent on January 8, 2020 shows rescue teams working at the scene after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)
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In this file photo provided by the Iranian Students News Agency and taken on January 08, 2020, child's shoe lies at the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that crashed January 8, 2020 shortly after take-off near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2020

World demands full account after Iran admits downing Ukraine jet

  • ‘Because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit’: Iran

PARIS: Iran said on Saturday it had unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian airliner that crashed this week outside Tehran killing 176 people, calling it an “unforgivable mistake.”

The statement sparked some relief that at least the immediate cause of the disaster would not be concealed amid international calls for a full accounting and compensation for the victims.
Iran has invited the US, Ukraine, Canada and others to join the crash investigation. Herewith are some of the remarks made by top leaders in response to the Iranian statement on its responsibility for the crash.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Iran punish those responsible, pay compensation and apologize.
“We expect Iran ... to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling for the “payment of compensation” and the return of remains.
“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky added. He also urged “total access” to the full inquiry for 45 Ukrainian experts and in a tweet also sought an “official apology.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the country mourning the loss of many of its nationals, said closure and accountability were needed after Iran’s announcement.
He demanded “transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims. “This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement. Iran must “learn lessons” from the disaster, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said.
“If decryption of the black boxes and the work of the investigation do not prove that the Iranian army did this intentionally, and there are no logical reasons for this, the incident must be closed. “Hoping that lessons will be learned and action taken by all parties,” Konstantin Kosachev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said it was “important to seize this moment to give space to discussions and negotiations” on the Iran nuclear deal.
“The lessons that we should learn from the dramatic sequence of events that we have experienced ... is that we must put an end to this escalation,” Parly told France Inter radio.
She reiterated the French position that everything must be done to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “It was important that Iran brought clarity to this issue.
“Now Tehran needs to draw the right consequences in the continued appraisal of this dreadful catastrophe, and take measures to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” Mass told Funke media. The plane was shot down early on Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was wounded in the attack on the bases.
A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target.” The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the US.
“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military said. It apologized and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent future tragedies.
Those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted, the statement added.

FASTFACT

A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a ‘hostile target.’

Gen. Amir Ali Hajjizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aerospace division, later said his unit accepts “full responsibility” for the shootdown. In an address broadcast by state TV, he said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, “I wished I were dead.”
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, expressed his “deep sympathy” to the families of the victims and called on the armed forces to “pursue probable shortcomings and guilt in the painful incident.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a statement saying the crash investigation should continue and the “perpetrators” should be brought to justice. He said Iran should compensate victims’ families, and he requested “official apologies through diplomatic channels.”
Iran’s acknowledgement of responsibility for the crash was likely to inflame public sentiment against authorities after Iranians had rallied around their leaders in the wake of Soleimani’s killing. Soleimani, the leader of the Guard’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Iran’s regional military interventions, was seen as a national icon, and hundreds of thousands of Iranians had turned out for funeral processions across the country.
The majority of the plane crash victims were Iranians or Iranian-Canadians. Iranian officials had repeatedly ruled out a missile strike, dismissing such allegations as Western propaganda that officials said was offensive to the victims.
The crash came just weeks after authorities quashed nationwide protests ignited by a hike in gasoline prices. Iran has been in the grip of a severe economic crisis since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani blamed the shoot-down of the plane in part on “threats and bullying” by the US after the killing of Soleimani. He expressed condolences to families of the victims, and he called for a “full investigation” and the prosecution of those responsible.
“A sad day,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster. Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran shortly after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport.
The US and Canada, citing intelligence, said they believed Iran shot down the aircraft with a surface-to-air missile, a conclusion supported by videos verified by The Associated Press.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The Canadian government had earlier lowered the nation’s death toll from 63.
“This is the right step for the Iranian government to admit responsibility, and it gives people a step toward closure with this admission,” said Payman Parseyan, a prominent Iranian-Canadian in western Canada who lost a number of friends in the crash.
“I think the investigation would have disclosed it whether they admitted it or not. This will give them an opportunity to save face.”
Iran’s acknowledgement of responsibility was likely to renew questions of why authorities did not shut down the country’s main international airport and its airspace after the ballistic missile attack, when they feared US reprisals.
It also undermines the credibility of information provided by senior Iranian officials. As recently as Friday, Ali Abedzadeh, the head of the national aviation department, had told reporters “with certainty” that a missile had not caused the crash.
On Thursday, Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei dismissed reports of a missile, saying they “rub salt on a painful wound” for families of the victims.
Iran had also invited Ukraine, Canada, the US and France to take part in the investigation of the crash, in keeping with international norms. The Boeing 737 was built in the US and the engine was built by a US-French consortium.
Ukraine’s president said its team of investigators, who are already on the ground in Iran, should continue their work with “full access and cooperation.”
The military statement, issued by the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces, said Guard officials had been ordered to “provide a detailed explanation” to the public.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported that the supreme leader on Friday morning had ordered top security officials to review the crash and announce the results.
Fars, which is close to the Guard, appeared to deflect blame.
“If some individuals, in any position, were aware of the issue but made statements contradicting the reality or hid the truth for any reason, they should be named and tried,” it said.
Others speculated that the security forces may have concealed information from civilian authorities.
“Concealing the truth from the administration is dreadful,” Mohammad Fazeli, a sociology professor in Tehran, wrote on social media. “If it had not been concealed, the head of civil aviation and the government spokesmen would not have persistently denied it.”


Norway wealth fund backs oil firms’ climate plans

Updated 2 min 4 sec ago

Norway wealth fund backs oil firms’ climate plans

  • Non-European oil companies still lagging, says CEO Yngve Slyngstad

OSLO: Norway’s $1.1 trillion wealth fund, the world’s biggest fund and a long-time advocate of companies being more transparent about their impact on the climate, on Thursday welcomed a shift among European oil and gas firms toward greener policies.

Top energy firms including BP, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell and Total — as well as Norway’s Equinor — have in recent months pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions and provide more information about their role in global warming.

Many environmentalists argue the targets do not go far enough, but the supportive comments from the Norwegian fund — which owns 1.5 percent of all globally listed equities — could help to persuade other investors that sufficient progress is being made.

“European oil companies have moved a long way, the clever detail and the comprehensiveness of reporting is quite different and much improved from what we saw a decade ago,” the fund’s chief executive, Yngve Slyngstad, said in an interview.

Slyngstad’s comments came as the fund, built up itself from the proceeds of Norway’s extensive oil and gas resources, reported a 19.9 percent return on investment last year and record earnings of 1.69 trillion Norwegian crowns ($180 billion), helped by surging stock markets.

The fund, now worth three times Norway’s annual gross domestic product, owns a 2.55 percent stake in Shell, worth $5.9 billion at the end of 2019, according to fund data published Thursday, as well as 2.34 percent in BP, worth $3 billion, and 2.3 percent in Total, worth $3.4 billion.

“Shell, BP and Total ... are going quite rapidly into, it seems to me, a strategy that is more adapted to a scenario of climate change,” said Slyngstad.

“It is something that in general we welcome as an investor, that the companies are aware of these issues and ... are publicizing to us the relevant numbers to see how they move. But we do not get involved in their strategy,” he added.

Slyngstad said Europe in general had moved further on tackling climate change than other regions, and that this was reflected in actions taken by companies.

The fund said its return for 2019 was ahead of its benchmark index and amounted to almost $34,000 for each of Norway’s 5.3 million people. The overall value of the fund is now equivalent to about $207,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.

Apple and Microsoft contributed the most to the fund’s return in 2019, followed by Nestle, while the worst performers were Nokia, Pfizer and Swedbank, it said.

The fund holds stakes in more than 9,000 companies globally, and also invests in bonds and
real estate.

Slyngstad announced late last year he would step down after a dozen years in the job. A successor, yet to be appointed by the board of Norway’s central bank, is expected to take charge within the next few months.