US Calls on Iran to Return Downed Drone

Posted December 13th, 2011 at 5:00 am (UTC-5)
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Iran says the United States should accept its consequences after a U.S. surveillance aircraft went down in Iranian territory earlier this month.

The Obama administration has made a formal request for Iran to return the aircraft, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that the U.S. should apologize instead.

Iran has complained to the United Nations about the drone incident, and repeated Tuesday its stance that the U.S. violated international law.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in a session with reporters Monday, refused to comment on what he termed “intelligence matters that are classified.” But news reports say the aircraft with advanced stealth technology either strayed into Iranian airspace from Afghanistan or was spying on Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Obama said the United States has asked for the drone back and will “see how the Iranians respond.” But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that given Iran's past behavior, “we do not expect them to comply.”

Both the Iranian complaint and the U.S. request were handled by Switzerland, because the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

Iranian officials say the drone was brought down by a cyber attack just inside Iran's eastern border, and that military experts are in the final stages of extracting data from the aircraft. Western defense experts have dismissed claims that Iran will be able to copy and mass produce the drone, and suggest that the plane probably malfunctioned.

U.S. officials have described the incident as a major setback to the stealth drone program that comes at a time of heightened political tension over Iran's controversial nuclear program.

The RQ-170 Sentinel drone is designed to evade enemy radar during surveillance flights. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters while traveling abroad that it is difficult to tell what the Iranians might be able to “derive from what they've been able to get” from the aircraft.