The comments mark the first official admission that the 'technical malfunction' reason given was untrue. Javad Zarif also rejected the prospect of direct nuclear negotiations with the United States.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday said that Iranians were "lied to" for days following the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner, which left all 176 passengers dead.
His comments at a security conference in New Delhi are the first time an Iranian official has referred to the initial story, that the air disaster was downed due to a technical malfunction, as a lie.
The tragedy has sparked days of angry protests in the country, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of top officials.
"In the last few nights, we've had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days," Zarif said.
He added that he and President Hassan Rouhani only found out that a missile had downed the flight on Friday. However, the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which was responsible for downing the airplane, knew immediately after the event took place.
Zarif said the United States is also partially to blame for the downing of the jet. The "ignorance and arrogance" of the US is "fuelling mayhem," he added.
Nuclear deal in jeopardy
Meanwhile, Zarif also said that Iran would reject any direct nuclear negotiations with the United States, due to uncertainty over how long any agreement made with US President Donald Trump would last.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday called for the president to replace Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with a new agreement to ensure that Iran does not develop atomic weapons. Trump responded that he agreed with Johnson that a new "Trump deal" should replace the 2015 pact.
"We had a US deal and the US broke it. If we have a Trump deal, how long will it last, another 10 months?" Zarif said at the conference.
He also accused Europe of violating the nuclear deal by not buying oil from Iran. "They are not buying oil from us, all of their companies have withdrawn from Iran. So Europe is in violation," he said, adding that the future of the deal "depends on Europe."
Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018. Since then, Tehran has reneged on its commitments, including on the processing of uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.
lc/rt (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)