Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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National and World

December 5, 2012

Official: Iran has evidence it captured US drone

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has material evidence to prove that it has captured an American unmanned aircraft, a prominent lawmaker in Tehran said Wednesday, rejecting U.S. Navy statements that none of its drones in the region was missing.

Tehran on Tuesday claimed to have captured a Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, and even showed an image of the purportedly downed aircraft on state TV. The Islamic Republic trumpeted its possession of an allegedly intact U.S. drone as another prize in its growing showdown with Washington over surveillance of Iran's disputed nuclear program.

"We have material evidence to prove that the drone we captured belongs to the U.S.," Ismael Kowsari, the head of the Iranian parliament's defense committee, told The Associated Press. "The unmanned aircraft took off from a warship. The Americans will have no choice but to confirm that one of their drones is missing."

Kowsari did not say what proof the Islamic Republic has to back up his claims, but said Tehran will release more information on the aircraft soon.

The U.S. has White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday that "we have no evidence that the Iranian claims are true." Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, also said all U.S. drones in the region are "fully accounted for."

The conflicting accounts could put pressure on both sides for more details on U.S. reconnaissance and Iranian counter-measures in the countries' growing showdown over surveillance.

There is even the possibility the drone is authentic but was plucked from the sea after a past crash and unveiled for maximum effect amid escalating tensions over U.S. reconnaissance missions — including a Predator drone coming under fire from Iranian warplanes last month.

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