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Tue 7 Oct 2008 06:04 PM

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Iran admits aircraft forced down was Hungarian aid plane

UPDATE 1: Correction from Iran admits no Americans on board, restates date.

blank_page Iran finally admitted on Tuesday that an aircraft forced down in its territory was a Hungarian aid plane with no Americans aboard, contradicting earlier reports it was carrying US soldiers.

A senior military official also admitted to state television's Arabic-language channel Al-Alam that the incident dated back to September 30, not on Sunday and Monday as Iranian officials had earlier stated.

The US military in Baghdad also confirmed that there had been no Americans aboard the aircraft.

"The airplane is now being confirmed as a light transport plane with no Americans onboard," US military spokesman Lieutenant David Russell told newswire AFP.

"From what I am seeing, it was a Falcon business jet. We have accounted for all our aircraft and none are missing."

The White House had previously poured scorn on the Iranian reports, although it had added it was looking into them.

"We're looking into the various and conflicting reports coming from the Iranian 'news' agencies, but do not have any information at this time that would lead us to believe they are correct," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Iran's Fars news agency had originally reported that Iranian fighter jets had forced a US aircraft to land in Iran after it entered its air space without permission.

"The plane had five soldiers and three civilians on board who were subjected to questioning," The statement on Fars said.

"After a day's interrogation, it emerged that the aircraft did not enter Iran intentionally and it was allowed to leave for Afghanistan."

State television had said the aircraft carrying the soldiers was a non-American civilian plane.

"This plane was not a military plane and did not belong to the United States," an unnamed official had been quoted as saying by the website of the television's Arabic-language Al-Alam channel.

"But a few US military soldiers were in the plane," he official added.

The plane was forced to land in Iran on Sunday and allowed to fly to Afghanistan on Monday, the website added.

In April 2007, Iran released 15 British sailors and marines whom it detained for almost two weeks saying their vessels had strayed into its waters on the maritime border with Iraq.

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