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Tehran denies US claim of destroying Iranian drone

  • Published at 03:32 pm July 19th, 2019
MIDEAST-IRAN/DRONES
Iranian versions of the American RQ-170 drone which were used in a military exercise in the Gulf in Iran, involving dozens of drones, are seen on the a runway, in this undated handout photo Reuters

US President Donald Trump claimed an American naval vessel downed an Iranian drone that threatened the ship as it was entering the strategic Strait of Hormuz

Tehran on Friday denied the United States had downed one of its drones, saying all Iranian aircraft were accounted for and jesting Washington may have accidentally hit their own machine.

The latest incident in the strategic Strait of Hormuz comes amid soaring tensions between the two foes, with Washington already reeling from Iran shooting down one of its drones last month.

US President Donald Trump said an American naval vessel downed an Iranian drone on Thursday that threatened the ship as it was entering the Strait – a claim vehemently denied by Tehran.

Iran's armed forces dismissed Trump's assertion as "baseless and delusional."

"All of [Iran's] drones... have safely returned to their bases," said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

"There have been no reports of a confrontation with the American USS Boxer" naval vessel, he added, quoted by Tasnim.

Trump said Thursday the USS Boxer "took defensive action" against an Iranian aircraft as it was "threatening the safety" of the vessel and its crew.

The Pentagon said the ship "was in international waters" when a drone approached.

"The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

'Psychological pressure'

Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie pledged Thursday to work "aggressively" with partners to ensure freedom of navigation in Gulf waters.

But the Guards' deputy chief said the United States will soon realise "it is not in its interest at all to stay in the region."

US forces are under mounting "psychological pressure" in the Gulf, Brigadier-General Ali Fadavi was quoted by Tasnim as saying.

The drone incident comes amid a threatened breakdown of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Washington steadily ratcheting up economically debilitating sanctions on Tehran a year after unilaterally quitting the deal.

Earlier this month, Tehran purposely surpassed the deal's caps on uranium enrichment, aiming to pressure the remaining parties to make good on their promises to support Iran economically.

Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if Tehran's oil exports are blocked through sanctions. 

Last month Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Iran was keeping up sales through "unconventional" means to circumvent the US measures.