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Trudeau links crash to rise in Middle East tensions

China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-15 09:53
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau attends a memorial service at the University of Alberta for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed in Iran, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Jan 12, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

OTTAWA-Victims of an Iran-downed jetliner would still be alive if not for a recent escalation of tensions partly triggered by the United States, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.

"I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families," Trudeau said in an interview with Global television, according to a transcript shared with other media.

He added that the international community has been "very, very clear about needing to have a nonnuclear Iran" but also in "managing the tensions in the region that are brought about by US actions as well".

The Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was shot down by a missile shortly after taking off from Teheran before dawn on Jan 8, killing all 176 on board.

By Ottawa's count, 57 of the passengers were Canadian citizens, many of them also holding Iranian nationality.

Long-standing US-Iran tensions have soared since Jan 3 when missiles fired from a US drone killed a top Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, near Baghdad's airport.

Iran responded with a barrage of missiles at two US bases in Iraq, inflicting no casualties in what was seen as an attempt to prevent a spiral of escalation.

But hours later, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet, in what Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called a "human error".

Trudeau also said he would have "obviously" liked a heads-up from Washington about the drone strike on Soleimani.

Over the weekend, Trudeau demanded that Iran provide Canada with "full clarity" on the shooting down of the airliner.

The Canadian leader said he made the demand in a call with Rouhani, who admitted earlier on Saturday that the airliner was mistakenly shot down by Iranian missiles.

At a televised news conference on Saturday, Trudeau said he told Rouhani the admission was "an important step" but "many more steps must be taken".

"A full and complete investigation must be conducted," he said. "We need full clarity on how such a horrific tragedy could have occurred."

The accident was a deep blow to the Iranian community in Canada, which is home to North America's largest Iranian diaspora. According to the last census, there were 210,000 Canadians of Iranian origin living in this country in 2016.

"It's a huge tragedy for the entire country and not just for the Iranian community," Trudeau said on Saturday.

Asked whether Ottawa would demand that Teheran pay financial compensation to the families of Canadian victims, Trudeau indicated that it would.

On Tuesday, Iran's judiciary said arrests had been made for the downing of the aircraft.

Agencies Via Xinhua

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