Middle East

Iran Denies Shooting Down U.S. Spy Plane

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's Revolutionary Guard denied Friday that it shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane over a uranium enrichment site, saying that its air defenses had only hit a test target.

The statement carried on the official IRNA news agency was in response to a claim earlier this week by Iranian lawmaker Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari, who said the U.S. drone was shot down as it was flying over the Fordo facility near the holy city of Qom in central Iran. He claimed that the drone was trying to gather information on the underground site.

"What caused the spread of the news was related to the hitting of a test air target by the Guard's air defense unit in the general region of Qom province," IRNA quoted the statement as saying.

The Guard, the country's most powerful military force, claimed that U.S. spy planes are unable to penetrate Iran's air space.

Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran's disputed atomic program, which the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity and producing isotopes to treat medical patients.

Long kept secret, the Fordo site is built next to a military complex to protect it in case of attack. Iran only acknowledged Fordo's existence after Western intelligence agencies identified it in September 2009. The facility is reportedly located 295 feet beneath a mountain.

Iran says it is planning to install advanced centrifuges at Fordo to speed up its nuclear activities.

Iran is under U.N. sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or atomic weapons.

Iran has claimed to shoot down U.S. spy planes in the past. Earlier this month, Iranian military officials showed Russian experts several U.S. drones they said were shot down in recent years.