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Canada wants to help in Iran crash investigation as Air Canada reroutes flights in region

Rescuers team check the debris from a plan crash belonging to Ukraine International Airlines after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY

The Canadian government is looking to play a significant role in the Iranian-led investigation of the Ukrainian airline flight crash that killed 176 people, including 63 Canadians, despite having no diplomatic relations with Iran.

A Ukrainian International Airlines plane crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran, Iran’s capital, on Wednesday, killing 167 passengers and nine crew members. Iranian officials said they suspected a mechanical issue brought down the plane. Ukrainian officials had initially agreed, but later backed away and declined to offer a cause while the investigation is ongoing.

As per international agreements related to civil aviation, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization will be leading the investigation into the crash. Canada had severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012.

As Canada seeks to get more information about the cause of the crash, Air Canada has rerouted its five-times a week flight to Dubai from Toronto in order to avoid the Iraqi airspace. Iran launched ballistic missile strikes against Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops on Wednesday.

“As a result of the current uncertain situation in the Middle East, like many international carriers, Air Canada has taken precautionary measures,” the airline said in an emailed statement.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as appropriate. Air Canada has not used Iranian airspace since mid-last year. These latest adjustments relate to Iraq airspace, which we will now also avoid.”

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he could not speculate as to what caused the crash, but that the government has offered its expertise in order to help find answers.

“The indications that we have from satellite data that we got from the area on suggests it took off in a normal fashion, climbing to altitude. A very, very standard departure,” Garneau said.

“However, we lost contact with it, suggesting that something very unusual happened, but we cannot speculate at this point. There are a number of possibilities and we will have to wait to obtain more information.”

Transport Canada said its officials are in contact with foreign civil aviation authorities to offer technical assistance with the investigations into the cause of the crash.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada, an independent agency that investigates incidents related to air, marine, pipeline and rail transportation, released a statement on Wednesday afternoon saying it has appointed an expert “who will receive and review factual information... and monitor the progress of the investigation.”

“The TSB remains available to provide any technical assistance requested by Iranian and Ukrainian accident investigation bodies,” the statement said.

With files from the Associated Press