Reuters: A senior Iranian official denied on Tuesday a local news agency report that a U.S. military plane had violated the country's airspace and was forced to land, saying both the aircraft and the people on board were Hungarian.
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – A senior Iranian official denied on Tuesday a local news agency report that a U.S. military plane had violated the country's airspace and was forced to land, saying both the aircraft and the people on board were Hungarian.
The Pentagon also denied the report by Iran's semi-official Fars News agency, which came at a time of tension over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme, and said all American planes were accounted for.
The oil market spiked briefly after the Fars report.
"The Fars report was not accurate. It was an Hungarian aid plane. No American was on board. The incident happened on Sept. 30," the Iranian official, who declined to be named, said.
Iran's Arabic-language al-Alam channel, citing a military source, said the Hungarian plane was carrying aid to Afghanistan and that it had been allowed to leave Iran after the incident.
There has been persistent speculation about a possible U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which U.S. and Israeli officials say form part of a covert weapons programme. Iran denies the charge.
Hostile rhetoric and close encounters in the Gulf have fuelled tension. In April, the U.S. navy said a cargo ship hired by the U.S. military fired warning shots at approaching boats in the Gulf. Iran denied that any confrontation had occurred.
Fars gave no source for its report, which said the plane left Iran after it was established it entered Iran unintentionally.
The news agency said five senior U.S. military officials were released after interrogation at an Iranian airport.
In Washington, Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters: "All aircraft in the region are accounted for and we have no reports of any aircraft landing in Iran."
"The plane was trying to fly low in order to not be detected by Iranian radars," Fars said. "This American Falcon plane was forced by Iranian military planes to land."
A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said: "The airplane is now being confirmed as a light transport plane with no Americans on board. From what I am seeing, it was a Falcon business jet. We have accounted for all our aircraft and none are missing."
The United States has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear row.
Iran says its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating electricity in the world's fourth-largest oil exporter and has warned it will hit back if it is attacked by the United States or Israel, its two arch-foes.
(Additional reporting by Washington and Baghdad bureaus)