REPORTING FROM TEHRAN AND BEIRUT — Iranian officials said Sunday the country's armed forces brought down a U.S. drone that they said violated Iranian airspace.
U.S. officials did not immediately confirm the claim.
An unidentified Iranian military official quoted by the official Islamic Republic News Agency said the unmanned aircraft suffered minor damage when it was downed in eastern Iran and was in the possession of the country's military.
He identified the aircraft as an "RQ170" type drone and said Iranian forces were "fully ready to counter any aggression."
[Updated, 3.30 p.m., Dec. 4, 2011: Some initial reports out of Iran suggested the drone had been shot down. But the semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, quoted a military official as saying that Iran’s electronic warfare unit had managed to take control of the aircraft and bring it “under their possession.”]
Iran's claim came during a deepening dispute over the country's nuclear program, which the United States and its allies say is aimed at developing an atomic weapon. Iran says the program is solely for civilian purposes.
Britain shut down its embassy in Iran on Wednesday and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave London after protesters angry about stepped-up sanctions ransacked two diplomatic compounds in Tehran. Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands have temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Tehran in solidarity with Britain.
— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Alexandra Zavis in Beirut
Photo: Iranian students gather at the Mehr-Abad airport in Tehran on Saturday to welcome Iranian diplomats who were ordered to leave Britain last week in a deepening dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Credit: Abedin Taherkenareh / EPA