U.S., Iran spar over downed drone claim

July 20, 2011 at 12:38 PM
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TEHRAN, July 20 (UPI) -- A senior Iranian legislator is claiming that his country downed a U.S. spy drone overflying the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Iran's Qom province in central Iran.

Washington is denying the allegations, Fars news agency reported Wednesday.

Ali Aqazadeh Dafsari, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, stated that the interception occurred near the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom province.

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Air Defense units fired on an unmanned aerial vehicle and allegedly brought it down.

"An unmanned U.S. spy plane flying over the holy city of Qom near the uranium enrichment Fordu site was shot down by the Revolutionary Guards' air defense units," Dafsari said.

Iran has provided no proof of the claim, including imagery of the downed UVA drone. Dafsari didn't say when the incident happened.

Dafsari claimed that the UAV was on a mission to gather intelligence about the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qum province for the CIA.

The Fordo nuclear enrichment facility was only disclosed by the Iranian government after Western intelligence agencies identified it in September 2009 and is reportedly buried 295 feet underneath a mountain.

The Iranian government has said that it is planning to install advanced centrifuges at Fordo to speed up its nuclear activities.

Iranian uranium enrichment efforts have received intense international scrutiny, particularly by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services, who maintain that Iran's civilian nuclear energy program is an operation designed to produce nuclear weapons-grade uranium for a covert Iranian program to produce nuclear weapons, a charge that Tehran strongly denies.

Iran maintains that its uranium enrichment programs are devoted to producing both fuel for its incipient Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran's first, scheduled shortly to come online as well as medical radioactive isotopes. However, Western intelligence agencies, led by the United States and Israel, maintain that Iran's nuclear programs mask a covert program to produce nuclear weapons.

Western knowledge of the Fordo facility dates only to September 2009, after Iran acknowledged after evidence compiled by Western intelligence agencies was made public. As Fordo is built next to a military complex to protect it in case of an attack, its assumed anti-aircraft facilities are substantial.

While the international nuclear monitoring International Atomic Energy Agency suspects that the Fordo enrichment facility might have come online nearly nine years ago, Iran continues to insist that uranium enrichment there began only in 2007.

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