Report: Iran forces down Western plane

October 7, 2008 7:20:27 AM PDT
Iranian news reports claimed Tuesday that Iran forced a Western aircraft that accidentally entered its airspace to land, then allowed the plane to continue after questioning its passengers.The state-owned Al-Alam, Iran's official Arabic-language television station, quoted an unidentified senior Iranian military official as saying the plane belonged either to a British or Hungarian relief agency. It said Iran forced the aircraft to land on Sunday and then permitted the passengers and crew to leave the following day.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "We're looking into the various and conflicting reports coming from the Iranian `news' agencies, but do not have any information at this time that would lead us to believe they are correct."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi said he had no information about the case. Other Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The official quoted by Al-Alam said the plane "lost its way" and violated Iranian air space. He said the passengers - who he said included American military personnel - were questioned and that the plane was allowed to continue to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, officials with the U.S. military, the American Embassy and the British Embassy said they had no information about a plane being forced down in Iran.

Initially, the semiofficial Fars news agency said the plane was American. Fars reported that the plane was carrying five military officials and three civilians from Turkey to Afghanistan when it "unintentionally" entered Iranian airspace.

According to the Fars report, Iranian fighters guided the plane to an Iranian airport, the passengers were questioned and a day later were released and allowed to continue to their destination.

Fars said the plane was a Falcon, apparently referring to a passenger aircraft manufactured by the French firm Dassault and primarily used by business executives. Dassault Falcon produces five jets with ranges from about 3,250 nautical to more than 4,000 nautical miles, with cabins that typically carry about six passengers and two crew members.

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