TEHRAN and BEIRUT — Iran on Tuesday rebuffed a U.S.
request to return the radar-evading drone that was seized while on a CIA
spying mission, saying the country should first apologize for violating
Islamic Republic airspace.
“The U.S. spy drone is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s
possession, and our country will decide what to do in this regard,”
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying by the
semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.
He accused the United States of acting in a “bullying
way” rather than offering an apology to Iran and Afghanistan, where the
aircraft was based.
Iran says its armed forces downed the RQ-170 Sentinel
about 140 miles inside the country earlier this month using electronic
warfare. U.S. officials say the bat-winged unmanned spy plane
malfunctioned and went down on its own.
Iranian officials have said the country is recovering
valuable data from the drone, which appeared relatively intact in
footage released by authorities, and have boasted of plans to copy the
U.S. officials are skeptical about Iran’s ability to
reverse-engineer the aircraft’s unique capabilities. But they have
expressed concern that Iran could offer the drone to China or other U.S.
rivals that are building their own stealth aircraft.
President Obama said Monday the United States had
requested that Iran return the drone, although U.S. officials said they
did not expect the country would comply.
“President Obama should not forget that the Iranian
airspace was clearly violated by the U.S. drone and therefore the U.S.
should first apologize for that,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran. “We ask Mr. Obama how he
and the U.S. would have reacted if U.S. airspace had been violated by a
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