Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday warned against any attempt to politicize the recent Ukrainian passenger plane crash in the outskirt of capital Tehran, state TV reported.
"Politicizing this tragedy" must be avoided, he said, adding that the focus should be directed on the victims' families.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday said that the Iranian "enemies" used the passenger plane crash to "tempt and provoke" anti-government sentiments and to undermine the assassination of the Iranian senior commander by the United States.
On Jan. 8, a Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 passenger plane crashed near Tehran, and all of the 176 people onboard were killed. The incident coincided with Iran's missile attack on the U.S. military base in Iraq.
Later, Iran's armed forces confirmed that an "unintentional" launch of a military missile by the country shot down the Ukrainian airliner.
Iran will send the black box flight recorders from the Ukrainian jetliner that it accidentally shot down last week to Ukraine for further analysis, an Iranian official said Saturday.
Hassan Rezaeifer, the head of accident investigations for the civil aviation department, said it was not possible to read the black boxes in Iran, without elaborating. He said French, American and Canadian experts would help analyze them in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
He said if that doesn't work the black boxes will be sent to France. His remarks were carried by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard accidentally shot the plane down shortly after it took off from Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board. Hours earlier, the Guard had launched ballistic missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq in response to the U.S. airstrike that killed Iran's top commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Officials say lower-level officers mistook the plane for a U.S. cruise missile.
Iranian officials initially said the crash was caused by a technical problem and invited countries that lost citizens to help investigate. Three days later, Iran admitted responsibility after Western leaders said there was strong evidence the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile.
The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Most of those killed were Iranians. The other five nations have demanded Iran accept full responsibility and pay compensation to the victims' families.
The plane was a Boeing 737-800 that was designed and built in the U.S. The plane's engine was designed by CFM International, a joint company between French group Safran and U.S. group GE Aviation. Investigators from both countries have been invited to take part in the probe.
Iran's supreme leader lashed out at Western countries as he led Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time in eight years, dismissing "American clowns" who he said pretend to support the Iranian nation but want to stick their "poisoned dagger" into its back.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used his rare appearance at the weekly prayers to deliver a fiery address in which he insisted Iran would not bow to U.S. pressure after months of crushing sanctions and a series of recent crises — from the killing of a top Iranian general to the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane.
Khamenei said the mass funerals for Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this month, show that the Iranian people support the Islamic Republic despite its recent trials. He said the "cowardly" hit on Soleimani had taken out the most effective commander in the battle against the Islamic State group.
In response to Soleimani's killing, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting U.S. troops in Iraq, without causing serious injuries. Khamenei said the strike had dealt a "blow to America's image" as a superpower. In the part of his sermon delivered in Arabic, he said the "real punishment" would be in forcing the U.S. to withdraw from the Middle East.
After the missile strike, as Iran's Revolutionary Guard braced for an American counterattack that never came, it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after takeoff from Tehran's international airport, killing all 176 passengers on board, mostly Iranians.
Authorities concealed their role in the tragedy for three days, initially blaming the crash on a technical problem. When it came, their admission of responsibility triggered days of street protests, which security forces dispersed with live ammunition and tear gas.
Khamenei called the shootdown of the plane a "bitter accident" that he said had saddened Iran as much as it made its enemies happy. He said Iran's enemies had seized on the crash to question the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard and the armed forces.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Friday that his country wants Iran to issue a formal document admitting its guilt. Ukraine, Canada and other nations whose citizens died in the crash have demanded Iran pay compensation to the victims' families.
German airline Lufthansa meanwhile said its flights would continue to avoid Iranian airspace through March 28, citing the "continued unclear security situation."
Khamenei also lashed out at Britain, France and Germany after they triggered a dispute mechanism to try and bring Iran back into compliance with the unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement. Iran began openly breaching certain limits under the agreement last summer, more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and began imposing sanctions. After the killing of Soleimani, Iran said it was no longer bound by the nuclear deal.
"These contemptible governments are waiting to bring the Iranian nation to its knees," Khamenei said. "America, who is your elder, your leader and your master, was not able to bring the Iranian nation to its knees. You are too small to bring the Iranian nation to its knees."
Khamenei has held the country's top office since 1989 and has the final say on all major decisions. The 80-year-old leader openly wept at the funeral of Soleimani and vowed "harsh retaliation" against the United States.
Thousands of people attended the Friday prayers, occasionally interrupting his speech by chanting "God is greatest!" and "Death to America!"
Tensions between Iran and the United States have steadily escalated since Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord, which had imposed restrictions on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
The U.S. has since imposed crippling sanctions on Iran, including its vital oil and gas industry, pushing the country into an economic crisis that has ignited several waves of sporadic, leaderless protests. Trump has openly encouraged the protesters — even tweeting in Farsi — hoping that the protests and the sanctions will bring about fundamental change in a longtime adversary.
Khamenei mocked those efforts, dismissing "these American clowns who falsely and despicably say that they are standing with the Iranian people." He did not refer to Trump by name, but was clearly referring to him and his administration.
"You are lying," he said. "If you do stand with the Iranian people it is because you want to stick your poisoned dagger into the back of the Iranian nation. Of course you haven't been able to do that so far, and you won't be able to do a damn thing."
Khamenei was always skeptical of the nuclear agreement, arguing that the United States could not be trusted. But he allowed President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, to conclude the agreement with President Barack Obama. Since Trump's withdrawal, he has repeatedly said there can be no negotiations with the United States.
Khamenei last delivered a Friday sermon in February 2012, when he called Israel a "cancerous tumor" and vowed to support anyone confronting it. He also warned against any U.S. strikes on Iran over its nuclear program, saying the U.S. would be damaged "10 times over."
Iran's president said Thursday that there is "no limit" to the country's enrichment of uranium following its decision to abandon its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal in response to the killing of its top general in a U.S. airstrike.
In a speech before the heads of banks, Rouhani said the nuclear program is in a "better situation" than it was before the nuclear agreement with world powers.
President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018, in part because it did not address Iran's support for armed groups across the region and its ballistic missile program. The U.S. has since imposed "maximum" sanctions on Iran's economy.
Iran continued to abide by the agreement until last summer, when it began openly breaching some of its limits, saying it would not be bound by the deal if it saw none of its promised economic benefits. After the Jan. 3 airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Iran's regional military operations, it said it would abandon all restrictions in the nuclear deal.
Thus far, however, it has only modestly increased its nuclear activity. In recent months it has boosted its enrichment of uranium to 4.5% — higher than the 3.67% limit set by the agreement but far from the 20% enrichment it was engaged in before the deal. Uranium must be enriched to 90% to be used in a nuclear weapon.
Britain, France and Germany have spent months trying to salvage the deal, but have not found a way to continue trading with Iran amid the tightened U.S. sanctions. Earlier this week, they triggered a dispute mechanism in the nuclear deal to try to bring Iran back into compliance. That process could lead to the snapback of international sanctions.
In his speech before the bankers, Rouhani acknowledged that the sanctions had caused economic pain but said such considerations could not be separated from foreign policy and national security.
He also acknowledged the steadily rising tensions with the United States.
"A single bullet can cause a war, and not shooting a single bullet can lead to peace," he said, adding that his administration is seeking greater security.
Turkey on Wednesday lifted its more than two-year ban on accessing Wikipedia, weeks after the country's highest court ruled that the block violated freedom of expression.
Turkey blocked Wikipedia in April 2017, accusing it of being part of a "smear campaign" against the country, after the website refused to remove content that allegedly portrayed Turkey as supporting the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations.
Access resumed Wednesday, hours after Turkey's Official Gazette published details of last month's Constitutional 's Court ruling in favor of Wikipedia.
Access to the website was blocked under a law that allows the government to ban websites that it deems to pose a national security threat.
Wikipedia had declined to remove content from the community-generated site, citing its opposition to censorship. It petitioned the Constitutional Court in May 2017 after talks with Turkish officials and a challenge in lower courts failed.
Turkey has a poor record on censorship and suppression of free speech, which intensified following a failed military coup in 2016 against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. Tens of thousands of people were arrested or dismissed from government jobs and thousands of media organizations or civil society groups were shut in a clampdown in the aftermath of the coup attempt.
Access from Turkey to tens of thousands of other websites remain blocked. In 2008, Turkey prevented access to YouTube for two years over videos insulting the Turkish republic's founding leader. Twitter, meanwhile, says it receives more requests for content removal from Turkey than from other countries.
Many Turks however, have found ways to circumvent the ban on Wikipedia and other blocked websites.