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Iran says US will have ‘no choice’ but to confirm drone

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

On Tuesday, Tehran said it captured a Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf and even showed an image of what it said was the aircraft on state TV. The Islamic Republic trumpeted its possession of an allegedly intact US drone as another prize in its growing showdown with Washington over surveillance of Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

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‘‘We have material evidence to prove that the drone we captured belongs to the US,’’ said Ismael Kowsari, the head of the Iranian Parliament’s defense committee. ‘‘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 said Tehran will release more information on the aircraft soon. The ScanEagle is a slow-moving 5-foot-long craft with a wingspan of about 10 feet.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, ‘‘We have no evidence that the Iranian claims are true.’’ Commander Jason Salata, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, also said all US drones in the region are ‘‘fully accounted for.’’

The conflicting accounts could put pressure on both sides for more details on US reconnaissance and Iranian countermeasures.

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

Kowsari dismissed suggestions that the drone could have belonged to other nations in the Gulf that have ScanEagle drones in service, including the United Arab Emirates.

‘‘The UAE doesn’t dare to engage in such activities against us,’’ he said. “We have sufficient evidence to prove it is American. The capture of the drone demonstrates Iran’s capability of bringing down such aircraft intact.’’

Salata said Tuesday that some ScanEagles operated by the US Navy ‘‘have been lost into the water’’ over the years, but there is no ‘‘record of that occurring most recently.’’

A conservative news website, rajanews.com, suggested that Iran captured the latest drone using electronic devices. It said the capture shows Iran’s capabilities in an ongoing ‘‘electronic battle’’ with the United States.

‘‘In terms of electronic and cyber war, Iran is in a position to take control of the navigation system of [American] drones, cut their connection with the satellites guiding them or the control center stationed on the warships, and bring them down intact,’’ it said.

Kowsari accused the United States of stepping up its espionage activities against Iran as part of intensified Western efforts to force Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment program, a key aspect of its disputed nuclear program.

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