Iran summons Swiss envoy over US drone 'violation'

8th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Iran on Thursday lodged a formal protest with Switzerland after a US drone last week entered "deep" into its eastern airspace, the website of state television reported.

Swiss ambassador Livia Leu Agosti was summoned to the foreign ministry and told the incident suggests Washington has upped its "provocative and covert actions" against the Islamic regime, the report said.

The Swiss embassy handles US interests in the absence of Iran-US diplomatic ties.

Iran "strongly protests the violation of an RQ-170 spy aircraft deep into its airspace," the state television website said, adding that Tehran asked for "an urgent response and compensation from the US government."

It did not elaborate.

Iranian media said late Sunday an RQ-170 unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down after making an incursion slightly into Iranian airspace. But no precise indication has been given by Iranian officials on where it crashed.

US media said the drone crashed in eastern Iran probably due to malfunction.

The RQ-170 Sentinel is a high-altitude stealth reconnaissance drone made by Lockheed Martin, whose existence was exposed in 2009 by specialised reviews and later confirmed by the US Air Force in 2010.

Iran's state television aired Thursday evening footage of the captured drone, which appeared to be an RQ-170 Sentinel in good shape.

On Thursday, Iran's foreign ministry said in a written complaint passed on to the Swiss ambassador that it holds "the US government fully responsible for this action, which is against all known international laws and regulations."

According to US media reports Thursday, revelations about the US stealth drone suggest Washington is stepping up surveillance and pressure on the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme.

The New York Times reported that the drone was part of a surveillance programme that has frequently sent the hard-to-detect aircraft into Iran to map suspected nuclear sites.

There had been reports in Iran that the drone would be put on display for media.

© 2011 AFP

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