The incident occurred during a week of intense military tensions with the United States.
The late admission of Iran that he had erroneously pointed to the plane provoked demonstrations led by students and rare internal criticism of the country's clerical leadership. Accountability demands come from protesters, as well as from President Hassan Rouhani and Zarif, both relative moderate politicians whose statements in recent days have highlighted rivalries between conservative and reformist camps in Iran.
"We have had people in the streets of Tehran who demonstrated against the fact that they lied to them for a couple of days," Zarif said in the Raisina Dialogue, an annual foreign policy conference in New Delhi.
“Our military forces were brave enough to claim responsibility from the beginning. But people are angry even with those two days. That is the expectation that people have with the government: that the government should have disclosed the information, ”he said.
"Why did it happen? Because there was a crisis," he added. And in a crisis, "people make mistakes, unforgivable mistakes." He said the loss of life in the incident "was due to the tensions created by the United States." .
His comments came a day after the Iranian judiciary said it had arrested "some people" in connection with the demolition of the Ukrainian plane, without providing further details. Rouhani also called on Tuesday for the creation of a special tribunal to hear the case due to international scrutiny and domestic justice demands.
The shooting killed 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, including the crew. It was reported that the majority, if not all, of the Canadians were of Iranian origin or dual nationality.
Five days earlier, an American drone attack ordered by President Trump had killed Major General Qasem Soleimani, the powerful commander of the Quds Force of Iran, outside Baghdad International Airport, unleashing a war of words and, finally, a reprisal attack by Iran on bases in Iraq that housed US troops. As tensions increased, Iran announced that it would no longer meet the limitations of its nuclear power program under an agreement signed with the world powers in 2015.
On Tuesday, European countries activated a dispute mechanism in the nuclear agreement, a measure that could lead to the return of United Nations sanctions against Tehran. Iran, in turn, accused the governments of Britain, France and Germany of obediently following Trump, who withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2018 and has carried out a "maximum pressure" campaign against the government in Tehran.
Rouhani on Wednesday criticized the European measure in threatening terms, according to comments from Iran's semi-official Fars news agency. "Today, American soldiers are in danger, tomorrow European soldiers may also be in danger," he said during a cabinet meeting, Fars said.
Iran's state media reported Wednesday that British Ambassador Robert Macaire has left the country for undisclosed reasons. Macaire was briefly detained on Saturday in Tehran after attending what had been planned as a "vigil" for victims aboard the Boeing 737-800.
He was "summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday for" unconventional behavior "incompatible with his diplomatic status and for being present at an" illegal meeting, "the semi-official Mehr news agency reported, adding that he left Iran on Tuesday. .
Macaire is "returning to [United Kingdom] today on a long-planned visit," a spokesman for the British Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “He will have a series of meetings while in the United Kingdom and this is still a business as usual. He will return to Iran in the next few days. "
Fahim reported from Istanbul. Niha Masih in New Delhi, Karla Adam in London and Erin Cunningham in Istanbul contributed to this report.