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Drone shot down over Iran 'lost over Afghanistan last week'
A US reconnaissance drone aircraft shot down over Iran could have been an unmanned craft flying over western Afghanistan that was lost last week after going out of control, Nato has said.
Iran's military claimed on it had shot down the craft in eastern Iran and warned it would retaliate on foreign soil for the incursion.
"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted the unnamed source as saying.
"The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian armed forces."
Nato's International Security Assistance Force said on Sunday: "The UAV to which the Iranians are referring may be a US unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week. The operators of the UAV lost control of the aircraft and had been working to determine its status."
A U.S. official said that Washington had no indication that a drone that had crashed had actually been shot down.
Iran's Fars news agency reported that the drone had been brought down through a combined effort by Iran's armed forces, air defence forces and its electronic warfare unit after the plane briefly violated the country's airspace on its eastern border.
The RQ-170 Sentinal UAV is a stealth aircraft designed for intelligence gathering. It was first sighted in Afghanistan in 2007 and nicknamed 'The Beast of Kandahar'.
Iran shot down the drone at a time when it is trying to contain foreign reaction to the storming of the British embassy in Tehran on Tuesday, shortly after London announced that it would impose sanctions on Iran's central bank in connection with Iran's controversial nuclear enrichment programme.
Britain evacuated its diplomatic staff from Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats in London in retaliation, and several other EU members recalled their ambassadors from Tehran.
The attack dragged Iran's relations with Europe to a long-time low.
Washington and EU countries have been discussing measures to restrict Iran's oil exports since the United Nations nuclear watchdog issued a report in November with what it said was evidence that Tehran had worked on designing an atom bomb.
Iran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
Iran had already warned the West that any move to block its oil exports would more than double crude prices with devastating consequences on a fragile global economy.
"As soon as such an issue is raised seriously the oil price would soar to above $250 a barrel," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in a newspaper interview.
The comments come as Iran strives to contain international reaction to the storming of the British embassy last week, a move which drew immediate condemnation from around the world and may galvanise support for tougher action against Tehran.
The US Senate voted on Thursday to penalise foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank - which takes payment for the 2.6 million barrels Iran exports a day. The European Union is considering a ban - already in place in the United States - on Iranian oil imports.
Until recently, Iran had dismissed as ineffective mounting sanctions aimed at forcing it to halt its nuclear activities. Mehmanparast's comments admitted that the penalties had caused damage.
"No one welcomes the sanctions, we know that sanctions create obstacles, but we want to say we will overcome these obstacles," Mehmanparast told Sharq daily. "Imposing sanctions on oil and gas is among the sanctions that, if one wants to do that, the consequences should be fully considered before taking any action.
"I do not think the situation in the world and especially in the West today is prepared enough to raise such discussions."