Iran to release images ‘proving US did not destroy its drone’
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Iran has said it will release drone images that disprove President Donald Trump’s claims that a US warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after it ignored warnings to back off.
The incident escalated tensions between the countries, less than a month after Iran downed an American drone in the same waterway and Mr Trump came close to retaliating with a military strike.
The Iranian military said all of its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with a US vessel the previous day.
On Friday, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Aragchi tweeted: “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else.”
Mr Trump said USS Boxer took “defensive action” after the drone ignored repeated warnings and came within 1,000 yards of the ship.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it would provide images from the drone, taken both before and after the US claimed it was destroyed.
It said the drone had been carrying out regular surveillance when the American vessel arrived and transmitted photos of the ship, but did not say when the images would be released.
The statement added that Guard forces continued to carefully monitor all movements of foreigners, especially the “terrorist forces” of the US and the British in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf.
In response to the statement, the US said it would destroy any Iranian drones that fly too closely to its ship.
A senior Trump administration official said they have “clear evidence” that it shot down such a drone on Thursday.
“If they fly too close to our ships, they’ll continue to be shot down,” the official told reporters at a briefing.
The official added that a video of the incident could be released by the Pentagon.
The strait is a vital shipping lane for oil and gas and is at the mouth of the Gulf.
However, it has become a flash-point following the US decision to pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran and impose strict sanctions that are seriously damaging its economy.
A foreign tanker was seized by Iranian authorities in the strait on Sunday, according to state television.
It claimed the ship – which was not named but is believed to be the Panamanian-flagged MT Riah – was smuggling a million litres of oil out of the country.
Earlier this week, the head of Gibraltar’s government met privately with Iranian officials in a bid to defuse tensions surrounding the seizure of an Iranian supertanker near the British overseas territory.
Chief minister Fabian Picardo said on Friday that the meeting at the Foreign Office in London “was both constructive and positive”.
He said he wants to “de-escalate” the situation after the interception of the Panama-flagged Grace 1 tanker off the southern tip of Spain on 4 July.
Gibraltar later said the Supreme Court has extended for 30 days the detention of the supertanker. The government said the court has set 15 August as the date for the new hearing.
British Royal Marines boarded the ship on 4 July and Gibraltar police have arrested the vessel’s captain and chief officer, as well as two second mates as part of their investigation.