By Allison Lampert
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Iran has signaled that Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) would play a more active role than international rules require in the investigation of the Iranian military's shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week, TSB head Kathy Fox said on Monday.
A missile fired by Iran brought down the Ukrainian airlines plane on Jan. 8 killing all 176 aboard, including 57 Canadians.
"In this investigation - and I want to be clear about this - - we do not yet fully know what the scope of our role will be," Fox said in a news conference.
She added that "there have been early signs that Iran is allowing the TSB to play a more active role than normally permitted", such as inviting its investigators to participate in downloading and analyzing the data in the cockpit voice and flight data recorders "whenever and wherever that takes place".
Since the cause of the crash is known, the probe will tackle other questions, such as whether the missile was launched accidentally or on purpose, why Iran's airspace remained open at the time, and why airlines continued to fly from the Tehran airport.
The plane took off despite heightened tensions after Iran's missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops earlier on the day of the tragedy. Iran said it attacked the bases in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general days earlier.
Fox said some of their questions to the Iranians will be "very uncomfortable" and that she does not know if international investigators will get all the answers they seek.
Canada has been invited to participate because a large number of its citizens were involved, but according to international rules Iran leads the investigation.
The TSB's director of investigations, Natacha Van Themsche, said Canadian investigators will meet Iranian officials on Tuesday, and that Iran has said it will allow the TSB to examine the wreckage of the airliner.
On Sunday, the TSB said it had obtained visas for two of its investigators to travel to Iran. A second team of investigators who specialize in aircraft recorder download and analysis will be deployed once TSB confirms where and when that activity would take place, the agency said.
(Reporting by Allison Lampert, additional reporting by David Ljunggren, writing by Steve Scherer; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)