In this photograph taken Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, protesters hold flowers as tear gas fired by police rises at a demonstration in front of Amir Kabir University in Tehran, Iran, to remember victims of a Ukrainian airplane shot down by an Iranian missile. On Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, online videos purported to show that Iranian security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Islamic Republic's initial denial that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner. (AP Photo)

Top Iran diplomat: People 'were lied to' over jetliner crash

January 15, 2020 - 3:06 am

NEW DELHI (AP) — Iran's top diplomat acknowledged Wednesday that Iranians “were lied to” for days following the Islamic Republic accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing 176 people , as the country's president warned European soldiers in the Mideast “could be in danger” after three nations challenged Tehran over breaking limits of its nuclear deal.

The comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi represent the first time an Iranian official referred to the earlier story that a technical malfunction downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight as a lie.

Meanwhile, President Hassan Rouhani's remarks in a televised Cabinet meeting represent the first direct threat he's made to Europe as tensions remain high between Tehran and Washington over President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the deal in May 2018.

The shootdown has sparked days of angry protests in the country.

“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.

Zarif went onto praise Iran's military for being “brave enough to claim responsibility early on."

However, he said that he and President Hassan Rouhani only learned that a missile had down the flight on Friday, raising new questions over how much power Iran's civilian government has in its Shiite theocracy. Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which shot down the aircraft, knew immediately afterward its missile downed the airline.

The Guard is answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is expected to preside over Friday prayers in Iran for the first time in years over anger about the crash.

In Tehran, Rouhani issued his threat in a wide-ranging speech that criticize Britain, France and Germany for starting the so-called “dispute process” of the 2015 nuclear deal." Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Rouhani said.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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