Iran admits shooting down Ukrainian plane

Iran says it unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian plane that crashed outside of Tehran on Wednesday killing 176 people "at [a] time of crisis" caused by the United States.

In a statement from Iran's Armed Forces General Staff, it is said that the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing plane was "accidentally hit by a human error" just after setting out from Tehran. The statement said that the plane had flown close to a sensitive military complex.

"[The plane] while in rotation is in close proximity to a sensitive military center of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and is in the height and shape of a hostile aircraft."

The crash happened only hours after Iran launched rockets at two Iraqi military bases housing United States troops. That attack came after the assassination of Iran's famed general Qassem Soleimani.

The plane could be seen on fire before crashing into a field. It was initially reported that the plane crashed due to technical issues. Among those killed was 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians - down from the initially reported 63 - four Brits, and 11 Ukrainians.

The statement on Saturday said that due to the potential threat of US retaliation there was "more sensitivity in air defence units".

"In the hours after the missile strikes, US terrorist forces' warplanes around the country increased, and some reports of air strikes targeting strategic centers in the country were reported to numerous defense units and targets on some radar plates."

After the statement was released, Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the plane crashed due to "human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster".

"Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations."

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said "regrettably missiles fired due to human error".

Iran is promising major reforms to the armed forces' operational processes to avoid similar errors. It also said the people responsible for the crash would be prosecuted.

Officials in the United States and Canada said on Friday (NZ time) that their intelligence suggested a missile struck the aircraft. A video taken on the night of the accident also showed an object hurtling towards the plane before an explosion. However, Iran continued to deny the claims.

"Scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumours are illogical," said Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s of Civil Aviation Organisation.

Ukraine's embassy in the Middle Eastern nation initially ruled out terrorism or a rocket strike, before rescinding the statement and saying it was too early to draw conclusions about what brought the plane down, killing all on board.

The plane had been on its way to the city of Kiev in Ukraine when it was hit.

Two black boxes from the plane are currently being examined by Iran. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the "truth" to be established and said he was determined to find who was "responsible for this terrible catastrophe".