Iran’s foreign minister has today blamed ‘US arrogance’ for fuelling the ‘mayhem’ in the Middle East which prompted Tehran to shoot down a passenger jet by mistake.
Mohammad Javad Zarif acknowledged that anti-government protests had erupted in Iran because people were ‘lied to’ about the causes of the plane crash.
Speaking on a visit to India, he said the missile strike was an ‘unforgivable mistake’ amid fury at the regime after dozens of Iranians died in the air disaster.
Iran has attempted to turn the public anger back at Washington and has even claimed it will try to take Donald Trump to the Hague over the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
Zarif also insisted that Iran could still return to the 2015 nuclear deal which has been steadily unravelling in recent months.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (pictured on a visit to India today) has today blamed ‘US arrogance’ for fuelling ‘mayhem’ in the Middle East
Wreckage from the Ukraine International Airlines flight which Iran now admits it shot down in error, killing 176 people including dozens of Iranian nationals
Protests against the regime (pictured here at a Tehran university) have erupted since Tehran admitted wrongly stating the crash was caused by a technical failure
Last week’s plane crash has put the Iranian regime on the back foot after the US killing of Soleimani had initially united the country in mourning.
Today Zarif said the drone strike was an ‘unprovoked attack’, although Washington says the general posed an ‘imminent’ threat to Americans.
Iran fired back with missile strikes on US bases in Iraq in what Zarif today called an act of ‘self-defence’.
The country’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet hours later, likely mistaking it for a military plane.
‘We lost the lives of  people because of tensions created by the United States,’ the foreign minister said today, referring to the plane crash.
Zarif said Iranian citizens had an ‘expectation that the government should have disclosed information’ on the downing of the Boeing 737 last Wednesday.
Iran spent three days claiming that the plane had suffered a technical failure and dismissed claims of a shoot-down as ‘psychological warfare’.
‘In the last few nights, we’ve had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days,’ Zarif said.
Mourners attend a vigil in British Columbia last night for the victims of the plane crash, who included dozens of Canadians
An image from the flight tracker website Flightradar24 showing the path of the Ukranian International Airlines jet which crashed just over two minutes after taking off from Tehran
The regime finally abandoned its pretence on Saturday, sparking a fresh wave of protests against the government.
Dozens of protesters chanted slogans at a Tehran university and a vigil for the crash victims boiled over into demonstrations.
The vigil sparked a diplomatic row when Iran arrested the British ambassador Rob Macaire, who said he had left when the memorial turned into protests.
The UK government yesterday summoned Iran’s ambassador in London to voice its anger over the breach of diplomatic protocol.
Zarif went onto praise Iran’s military for being ‘brave enough to claim responsibility early on.’
He also claimed that he and President Hassan Rouhani only learned that a missile had downed the flight on Friday, challenging claims of a cover-up.
Ukraine says the pilots were killed immediately when the Iranian missile struck the plane just below the cockpit (the wreckage is pictured at the crash site near Tehran)
Dozens of protesters gathered and chanted slogans at a Tehran university amid a wave of public anger over the crash which killed 176 people after Iran shot down a plane
Zarif also said the nuclear deal with Western powers and Russia was not dead, despite Tehran’s near-abandonment of the pact.
Iran has said it will no longer abide by any of the nuclear limits under the 2015 deal, which was intended to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon.
Donald Trump pulled out of the deal last year but European powers say they want to keep it alive.
Around 30 people have been arrested in the protests over the air disaster, according to judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.
In another sign of growing dissent, several artists have cancelled their involvement in the Fajr festival, held each year on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
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,’ said Mehdi Rahmanian, director of reformist daily Shargh.
In an eye-catching effort to turn public anger back at America, Iran said yesterday it would attempt to take Donald Trump (pictured with wife Melania) to the Hague
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (pictured) has today blamed the US ‘escalation’ in the Middle East for the Iranian shoot-down of a passenger jet
In an eye-catching effort to turn public anger back at America, Iran said yesterday it would attempt to take Donald Trump to the Hague over Soleimani’s death.
Esmaeili, the judiciary spokesman, said the US military had committed a ‘terrorist act’ by eliminating the Quds Force general, according to Iranian media.
‘We intend to file lawsuits in the Islamic Republic, Iraq and the Hague Court [International Criminal Court],’ he said.
Iran said yesterday that authorities have made several arrests after an ‘extensive investigation’, without saying how many.
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,’ he said.
Ukraine has today demanded access to the Boeing 737’s two black boxes, which were recovered from the wreckage.
Iranian officials have said the flight recorders are damaged and say it could take months to extract information from them.
A top Ukraine security official said this week that a senior investigator from Iran was expected to visit Ukraine soon.