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Wed 20 Jul 2011 03:25 PM

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Iran says shot down US spy plane over nuclear site

Tehran says plane was trying to collect information about nuclear site’s location

Iran says shot down US spy plane over nuclear site
Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defied international calls for Iran to stem its nuclear programme

Iran has shot down an unmanned US spy plane over its Fordu
nuclear site, a state-run website reported on Wednesday, a day after it
confirmed it was installing a new generation of advanced uranium enrichment

"An unmanned US spy plane flying over the holy city of
Qom near the uranium enrichment Fordu site was shot down by the Revolutionary
Guards' air defence units," MP Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari was quoted as saying
by the Youth Journalists Club, affiliated to Iran's state TV.

"The plane ... was trying to collect information about
the site's location," he said, without giving details. He did not say when
the incident happened.

The Fordu site, secretly built inside a mountain bunker near
Qom, was acknowledged by Iran only after Western intelligence agencies
identified it in 2009.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on
Tuesday appeared to confirm a Reuters story last week that Iran was installing
two more advanced models of the centrifuges used to refine uranium for large-scale
testing at a research site.

In January Iran announced it had shot down two unmanned
western reconnaissance drone aircraft in the Gulf.

The Pentagon denied that report but acknowledged some spy
planes had crashed in the past due to mechanical failure.

Iran is at odds with major powers over its nuclear work,
which the United States and its allies say are intended to enable Iran to
produce bombs. Iran denies the allegations and says it wants only to generate

The United States and Israel, Iran's arch foes, have not
ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear row.

Iran has dismissed reports of possible US or Israeli plans
to strike Iran, warning that it will respond by attacking US interests in the
Gulf and Israel if any such assault was made.

Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by launching hit-and-run
strikes in the Gulf and by closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of
all traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway.

The Islamic state often launches military drills in the
country to display its military capabilities amid persistent speculation about
a possible US or Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities

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