IranÂ on Tuesday rejected a request by President Obama to return an American surveillance drone that the Iranians say they captured on Dec. 4., state media in Tehran reported.
â€œWe have asked for it back â€” weâ€™ll see how the Iranians respond,â€ Mr. Obama said of the drone on Monday in a short session with reporters at the White House. Mr. Obama appeared with Prime MinisterÂ Nuri Kamal al-MalikiÂ ofÂ Iraq, with whom he discussed issues including American concerns about Iranâ€™s influence in the region.
Press TV, a state-financed Iranian satellite broadcaster, quoted Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as telling reporters on Tuesday that the drone â€œwill remain in the countryâ€™s possession as part of its assets.â€
â€œThe U.S. spy drone is part of the Islamic Republicâ€™s assets and the nation will decide about future measures on the issue,â€ General Vahidi said.
The broadcaster said the drone was â€œbrought down with minimal damage by the Iranian Armyâ€™s electronic warfare unit on December 4 when flying over the northeastern Iran city of Kashmarâ€ about 140 miles from the border with Afghanistan.
The Presidentâ€™s request was his first public comment about the drone, a remote-controlled spying aircraft, in a case that has raised American tensions with Iran.
Mr. Obama was answering this question: â€œAnd speaking of Iran, are you concerned that it will be able to weaken Americaâ€™s national security by discovering intelligence from the fallen drone that it captured?â€
Mr. Obama did not elaborate on theÂ episodeÂ or on Iranian assertions that its forces had captured the drone through a digital attack on the aircraftâ€™s avionics, which they say caused it to land safely inside northern Iran.
American officials have attributed the loss of the drone to a technical malfunction. Just how the drone, which was managed by C.I.A. controllers in neighboringÂ Afghanistan, ended up on the ground in Iran, apparently nearly intact, remains unclear.