Iran holds onto drone, wants apology from U.S.
TEHRAN — Iranian officials on Tuesday demanded an apology from the Obama administration before they would consider any request to return a surveillance drone that Iran captured this month.
“President Obama should not forget that that the Iranian airspace was clearly violated by the U.S. drone, and therefore the U.S. should first apologize for that,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
Iran has said it used an “electronic ambush” to gain control of the top-secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone and land it with minimal damage about 140 miles inside Iran. The capture was announced on Dec. 4, and the Pentagon acknowledged that a U.S. drone had been lost the preceding week.
Obama said on Monday that the United States wants Iran to return the radar-evading stealth aircraft. “We have asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Obama said during a White House news conference with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane,” the semiofficial Fars News Agency concluded in a headline.
While several Iranian officials said there was no chance that Iran would return the drone, some key figures said any move to do so must be preceded by an official U.S. apology.
The United States previously rebuffed Iranian demands for apologies. In 1988, a Navy guided-missile cruiser shot down an Iranian civilian airliner by mistake over the Strait of Hormuz, killing all 290 people on board.
The U.S. government expressed regret over the incident and paid nearly $62 million in compensation but stopped short of issuing a formal apology, maintaining that U.S. crew members thought they were about to be attacked by an Iranian warplane.