Iran accused Western governments of “psychological warfare” in claiming the Boeing jet that crashed near Tehran on Wednesday was brought down by a missile, as the tragedy became further embroiled in geopolitical tensions.

“If they are certain and have the courage, they should share any finding that has scientific and technical backing,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization, said in a televised briefing Friday.

The comments intensify a standoff over the crash, which came hours after Iran struck at U.S. bases in Iraq in response to the killing of a top general. Canada, the U.K. and Australia all said they have intelligence showing the plane was shot down, while U.S. sources have said two surface-to-air missile launches were detected soon after the Ukrainian jet took off, followed by an explosion.

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The partner of Julia Sologub, a member of the flight crew of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, reacts as he holds a portrait of her at a memorial inside Borispil international airport outside in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Investigations into civil air disasters typically involve cooperation between manufacturers, regulators, the airline and the country where the crash happened. The U.S., Canada and France have now agreed to join the probe, after Ukraine already sent experts to the scene of the Iran tragedy, which killed 176 people, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

At the same time Iran indicated it won’t seek American assistance with decoding the 737-800’s black boxes and will turn to Russia, Ukraine, France or Canada if it needs aid extracting information. Raising concern that the investigation might be compromised, a crew of U.S. broadcaster CBS found the impact site unguarded and unsecured, with virtually all pieces of the plane cleared away and scavengers picking the location clean of remaining debris.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meanwhile received “important data” in a meeting with U.S. representatives, Vadym Prystaiko, the country’s foreign minister, said on Twitter. More details may be disclosed after Zelenskiy speaks with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo later Friday.

Speculation about Iran downing Flight PS 752 in error has been further fueled by a video purportedly showing a bright dot streaking toward the plane, followed by a flash, along with reports missile debris was found at the scene.

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 file photo, debris at the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File

The jet’s flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders will be examined Friday in Tehran, Abedzadeh said, adding that all claims should be regarded as conjecture until all information is retrieved. Hours after the tragedy, Iran claimed that a technical error most likely caused the crash.

More than a third of passengers on the jet were from Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday intelligence from multiple sources, including allies, “indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.” He added that “this may well have been unintentional.”

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison also said the evidence points to in that direction.

A shoot-down would echo two other instances of surface-based missiles striking civilian jets. In 2014, Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine fired on and destroyed a Malaysia Airlines plane, while in 1988 an Iranian airliner was felled by a U.S. cruiser.

In both instances the doomed aircraft appeared to have been mistaken for hostile warplanes. In the Malaysian case, the probe was led by a team from the Netherlands, given that about two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch.

“It is indeed very likely that the plane has been shot down by Iranian missiles,” Stef Blok, the Dutch foreign minister, told reporters on the way into a meeting with his EU counterparts. “It’s important that independent research makes clear what exactly happened. It depends on the outcome and the Iranian reaction to that outcome what should happen next.”

President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters in Washington on Thursday, said he had “suspicions” about why the plane went down, without being more specific. “It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood,” he said. “Somebody could have made a mistake.”

The Russian-made SA-15 missile, also known as a Gauntlet or a Tor, is suspected of being involved, according to a person familiar with the matter. They are short-range weapons designed to attack planes, helicopters and other airborne targets

Boeing closed 1.5% higher in New York Thursday following the claims that the plane was shot down, something that would rule out a mechanical failure that might affect other aircraft.

The U.S. intelligence assessment is consistent with what some aviation accident experts have said. The apparent rapid spread of the fire combined with the sudden halt of radio transmissions from the plane after a normal climb aren’t consistent with previous crashes, said Jeffrey Guzzetti, the former head of accident investigations at the Federal Aviation Administration.

While Iranian officials initially said they suspected a problem with one of the plane’s engines, they retracted that in a preliminary report issued Thursday. The government also took the unusual step of setting up an investigative group to examine whether “any unlawful actions” initiated the fire on the plane, the report said.

Iran notified the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the United Nations, about the crash, triggering the involvement of other nations in the investigation, with Ukraine already sending 45 people, including experts who helped probe the missile strike on the Malaysian jet in 2014.

It’s still not clear whether the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will send a representative to Iran in light of federal law that restricts travel to that country and the exchange of certain data. The agency said in a statement on Thursday night that it had “designated an accredited representative to the investigation of the crash.”

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Bloomberg’s Thomas Penny, Aliaksandr Kudrytski and Alan Levin contributed to this report.


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