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Dec 05, 2012 05:12 PM IST | Source:

Iran claims seizing another US drone

Iran claimed on Tuesday that it has captured an unmanned US drone after the aircraft entered Iranian airspace, underscoring the increasing tensions between the two countries.

Iran claimed on Tuesday that it has captured an unmanned US drone after the aircraft entered Iranian airspace, underscoring the increasing tensions between the two countries.

Real Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards marine forces, told state media on Tuesday that the drone, which was "patrolling Persian Gulf in recent days to conduct reconnaissance operations and collect information was captured and brought down immediately, after it had entered Iran's territory".

He told the semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, that the drone was a ScanEagle, which are usually launched from large warships. Iran's state television said the US had a "network of drones" in the Gulf region.

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A US navy spokesman told the Associated Press that there were no US drones missing in the Middle East.

Tehran's claim comes less than a month after Iran said it fired at a US surveillance drone in the Gulf. In December 2011, Iran claimed it shot down a US stealth drone inside its territory, a statement the Pentagon denied, saying that operators lost control of the aircraft and it had crashed.

Iran wrote a letter to the UN in late November to warn against what it called "the repeated violations of its airspace by US drones" in the region and "the adverse consequences of any provocative and dangerous acts for which the United States government would be held responsible".

The second incident in a month underlines the risk of an accidental war in the region that could arise from a tense stand-off between the two countries' militaries amid a stalemate over international talks on Iran's nuclear programme.

Hillary Clinton said last week that Iran was the most difficult issue she had faced as US secretary of state "because of the dangers that its behaviour already poses and the geometrically greater danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose".

Iran has said before that it will not give up its nuclear programme despite the US and EU's tightened banking and oil sanctions, and Israel's threats of military action against its nuclear facilities.

The regime in Tehran has previously warned that any military aggression against the country over its nuclear programme would not be tolerated and could put at risk shipping routes in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic seaway through which a third of the world's seaborne oil passes.

Rear Adm Fadavi did not give further details on the latest incidents, but said the marine force of the Revolutionary Guards was fully monitoring all the "foreign movements in the strategic Gulf and Strait of Hormuz region".

The ScanEagle drone, manufactured by Boeing, is a low-cost, small and long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle. The company says customers use it either individually or in groups "to loiter over trouble spots and provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data or communications relay".

Boeing says that as standard payload, ScanEagle carries either an electro-optical or an infrared camera. It is capable of flying above 16,000 feet, and has also demonstrated the ability to provide persistent low-altitude reconnaissance.

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