Iran on Saturday demanded a formal apology from the United States for downing an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf as it marked the 33rd anniversary of the tragic incident.
“In the incident, 290 people onboard the plane were martyred. Unfortunately, the US administration has neither formally apologized for the crime nor taken any significant action about it,” President Hassan Rouhani said in Tehran, calling the downing a “great appalling crime”.
On July 3, 1988, the American warship fired missiles at the Iranian passenger plane which was flying over the Strait of Hormuz from the port city of Bandar Abbas to Dubai, carrying 274 passengers and 16 crew members.
The aircraft disintegrated and crashed into Persian Gulf waters, killing all 290 on board, among them 66 children.
US officials claimed that the USS Vincennes had mistaken Iran Air Flight 655 for a warplane. This is while the warship was equipped with highly sophisticated radar systems and electronic battle gear at the time of the attack.
Rouhani said the US instead awarded the commander of USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser that shot down Iran’s Airbus A300 in 1988 in a “cowardly attack”.
“This is no way acceptable,” the president said of the US move to award the captain of the cruiser, Will Chapel Rogers III, two years after the incident.
In 1990, Rogers was cleared of any wrongdoing, and was even awarded America’s Legion of Merit medal by then US President George Bush for "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” as commanding officer of USS Vincennes during operations in the Persian Gulf.
Rouhani said, “We hope that the US government will recognize that a great crime was committed in the Persian Gulf in 1988. All the freedom-seekers of the world always urge the US to take necessary measures to apologize and compensate and explain to the people why it has acclaimed the murderer and the criminal responsible for this great crime.”
A memorial ceremony was held on Saturday with officials from Iran’s southern Hormuzgan Province and the families of the victims who were aboard a vessel tossing flowers into the waters near the Strait of Hormuz and Hengam Island, Press TV wrote.