June 12 (Reuters) - Iranian investigators have asked France’s BEA air accident agency to read black boxes from a downed Ukrainian jetliner, Iran’s envoy to the United Nations aviation agency said.
The Ukraine International Airlines flight was shot down on Jan. 8 by an Iranian ground-to-air missile, killing 176 people in what Tehran termed a “disastrous mistake” at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.
The fate of the cockpit voice and data ‘black-box’ recorders has been the subject of an international standoff eclipsed by the coronavirus crisis, which Iran says has also contributed to delays in a probe by Iran’s Air Accident Investigation Board.
Progress was discussed at a council meeting of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization on Wednesday.
“Iran’s AAIB recently made a request to the BEA that the recorders should be taken by Iran to the BEA’s premises in France to be read in the presence of representatives of other involved countries and ICAO, if the BEA is in a position to accommodate this,” Farhad Parvaresh, Iran’s representative to the UN agency, told Reuters by telephone.
The BEA said it had not formally received the request and remained in discussions with Iran, Canada and Ukraine on any involvement it may have. Canada had 57 citizens on board.
Iran has accused the United States, which built the Boeing 737-800, of refusing to provide software to decipher the recorders, while Canada and Ukraine have accused Tehran of dragging its feet over the probe.
Sources said earlier this week that Iran had told ICAO it would take the recorders to Paris once countries involved in the probe agreed.
Iran had earlier said it would send them to Ukraine.
Canada this week called on Iran to allow the recorders to be downloaded in a suitable facility as soon as possible.
The BEA last month read black-box data from a Pakistan-operated Airbus that crashed in Karachi on May 22. Pakistani investigators are expected to issue a preliminary report soon. (Reporting by Tim Hepher and Allison Lampert; Editing by Giles Elgood)