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U.N. agency issues report on downing of Iran Air jet

MONTREAL -- The crew of the Iran Air jet shot down by a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf last summer may not have been monitoring the specific radio frequency on which four warnings were issued, a civil aviation agency report said.

The USS Vincennes shot down the Iranian A-300 Airbus, killing 290 people, during a battle between the warship and Iranian gunboats last July 3. The Pentagon blamed human error, saying the Vincennes's crew believed the jet was an Iranian warplane.

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The governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, Wednesday released a seven-page summary of its investigation of the destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 supporting a U.S. claim that warnings were sent to the plane before it was blown out of the sky.

Adm. William Crowe, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said after the downing of the Airbus that the plane was bearing down on the ship and ignored seven broadcast warnings.

The report by five ICAO experts said, 'The aircraft was not equipped with the military air distress frequency 243 megahertz and therefore could not receive the seven challenges transmitted on that frequency.'

But it added the crew was supposed to listen to a second frequency, 121.5 megahertz, on which four warning were issued.

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'The flight crew of Iran Air 655 was aware of the company instruction to monitor frequency 121.5 megahertz at all times while operating in the Gulf area,' it said.

'Four challenges addressed to an unidentified aircraft were transmitted by United States warships on that frequency between takeoff and destruction of IR655, three from the USS Vincennes and one from the USS Sides.

'There was no response to these challenges, indicating that the flight crew may not have been monitoring 121.5 megahertz in the early stages of flight or did not identify its own flight as that being challenged,' the summary said.

The ICAO council deferred until its February-March session any resolution on the incident, and referred the report to its air navigation commission for analysis.

Iran had wanted a motion condemning the U.S. action. ICAO President Assad Kotate said the council discussed a general motion condemning the use of arms against civil aircraft but 'the motion to condemn the United States specifically was not discussed during this meeting.'

Iranian delegate Mahmoud Haseghasemali said his country would go along with the ICAO decision but added that 'our people will not tolerate further delay in finalizing of the issue.' He would not elaborate.

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