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Spokesperson For Iranian President Rouhani On Relations With U.S.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today stood behind a podium and shared this conclusion on the Ukrainian plane that crashed here in Iran yesterday.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

KELLY: The crash killed 176 people; 63 were Canadian citizens. Trudeau says the evidence comes from multiple intelligence sources and that the action may have been unintentional. Earlier today in Tehran, I sat down with a spokesman and adviser for Iranian President Rouhani and his government. His name is Ali Rabiei. And I started by asking about the crash and Iran's involvement in it.

ALI RABIEI: (Through interpreter) No, that's impossible. We are at a point that satellite images can read out plate numbers. So if there was a missile hitting a plane, the footage would have been available, satellite footage would have been available. Apart from that, we have the black box. We've asked the government of Ukraine to come and we can give them the black box and analyze it together - or any other country which is willing to come. Everything will become clear that it was just an accident. But we didn't give it to Americans because we don't trust them and how they might read the information there.

KELLY: I'm asking because many people are asking. It seems like quite a coincidence for so many bad things to be happening in Iran all at once.

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) I don't know. Maybe it's just our bad luck. And I want to make it clear that the Ukraine government can bring anybody they like, perhaps the French, and they can do research into this. This shows that we have no proof. There's no issue regarding this that we are trying to hide.

KELLY: Now, Rabiei and I spoke before U.S. officials came out and said they believe an Iranian missile is to blame. But after, President Trump appeared at the White House and spoke about Iran. Rabiei was diplomatic when I asked his reaction to that speech.

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) Well, I don't want to say anything that would aggravate the situation because if I do, we might go back into the situation we were in before.

KELLY: He was less reserved in assessing Iran's actions, such as the missile attacks on two military bases in Iraq, attacks which Rabiei says were intended to make a point but were not intended to kill American troops.

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) I want to say this clearly and affirm it, that we are not interested in taking the lives of others.

KELLY: Now, as for the way forward from here, since things are calmer, it seems, than at the beginning of the week, since we did not wake up this morning to find your country and mine at war, is there a diplomatic path forward?

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) Just before I answer your question, we have absolutely no problem with the people of your country. We do not hate them at all.

KELLY: Thank you.

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) We sat down and we talked with Obama, and we made a deal. We celebrated together, and we made arrangements together. But how can another president come and say, I'm going to tear up this deal and you can only make a deal with me? He sent messages to us through different PMs, from France or Eastern countries. And he said, I will give you more than Obama gave you, but only if you come and sit down and talk to me. Do you think this is a rational president?

KELLY: That sounds like, no, you don't see a path to diplomatic progress, at least as long as Donald Trump is president.

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) We believe there is always a way forward for the future. I personally asked Mr. Rouhani why he didn't speak to Donald Trump when Macron came to him.

KELLY: In New York at the United Nations?

RABIEI: (Through interpreter) Yes. Came to the hotel and asked him to speak. Mr. Rouhani said, I have no trust in Trump. So the first problem is that there is a lack of trust.

KELLY: That's Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei speaking with me today in Tehran.


And since this interview, an Iranian government spokesperson has invited Boeing to join the process of investigating the crash.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.