Sweden: Iran to compensate Ukraine plane crash victims

DAVID KEYTON and JAN M. OLSEN

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Iran has agreed to compensate the families’ of the foreign victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane that was shot down by Iranian forces outside Tehran in January, Sweden’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

“We have signed an agreement of mutual understanding that we will now negotiate together with Iran about amends, compensation to the victims’ next of kin,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT.

Iran had denied for days its involvement in the plane crash but then announced that its military had mistakenly and unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukrainian International Airlines. All 176 people on board were killed.

Diplomats from nations that had lost citizens in the downing of the plane have for months been pushing Iran for more cooperation on the investigation and compensation issues.

The Iranian admission followed U.S. and Canadian intelligence reports indicating that Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces had downed the aircraft. Tehran blamed “human error” for the shoot-down. The jetliner went down Jan. 8 on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff, just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq.

The plane was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Those from Sweden included both Swedish nationals and people with staying permits in the Scandinavian country.

Asked whether Iran will really pay compensation, Linde replied,“ there is no doubt about that.”

The five countries that are acting together against Iran on this issue are those with victims that were on board of the doomed plane: Sweden, Canada, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Afghanistan, the TT news agency said.

“We expect that we will be able to have the first concrete negotiation meeting in a very short time,” Linde was quoted as saying.

Her press secretary told The Associated Press that the International Coordination and Response Group “has now achieved its primary objective of agreeing on a memorandum of understanding to enter, jointly as a united group, into negotiations with Iran on full reparations for the victims.”

Days after the shoot-down, the governments of five countries that lost citizens demanded that Tehran accept “full responsibility” and pay compensation to the victims’ families — though they had little to offer besides moral pressure to get Iran to comply — in line with Iran's responsibilities under international agreements governing passenger rights.

After a meeting in London, the foreign ministers from Canada, the U.K., Afghanistan, Sweden and Ukraine urged Iran to allow a “thorough, independent and transparent international investigation,” as well as a criminal probe and “impartial” judicial proceedings against those found responsible for downing the plane.

___

Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark.

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