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Iran defiant over drone as Trump reportedly halts retaliatory strikes

The downing of the drone — which Washington insists was above international waters but Iran says was within its airspace — has seen tensions between the two countries spike further after a series of attacks on tankers the US has blamed on Tehran.

AFP | Tehran |

Iran said Friday it had “indisputable” evidence a US drone it downed had violated its airspace, as reports emerged in the US that President Donald Trump had approved then scrapped retaliatory strikes against Iranian targets.

The downing of the drone — which Washington insists was above international waters but Iran says was within its airspace — has seen tensions between the two countries spike further after a series of attacks on tankers the US has blamed on Tehran.

Under pressure to respond to the high-stakes incident near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Trump issued orders for retaliatory strikes on a limited number of Iranian targets, the New York Times reported.

The US was planning to hit “a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries” Thursday evening, the newspaper said, citing senior administration officials, but the plan was suddenly aborted in its early stages.

White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment, the Times said, and it was unclear whether Trump had decided to delay retaliatory strikes or cancel them altogether.

The US president had struck a combative tone in his public comments before rowing back.

“Iran made a very big mistake!” he tweeted in response to news Iran had shot down the Global Hawk surveillance aircraft.

“This country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,” he said later at the White House.

But as the pre-dawn incident whipped up fears of open conflict between the United States and its declared foe Iran — sending crude oil prices soaring — Trump moved swiftly to dial back tensions.

“I find it hard to believe it was intentional if you want to know the truth,” Trump said. “I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”

The president’s mixed message left the world unsure what Washington’s next move would be.

Iran said Friday it had called in the Swiss ambassador, whose country has represented US interests since the severance of diplomatic relations in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979, to issue a formal protest.

Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi provided the ambassador with “indisputable” evidence the drone had violated Iranian airspace, the foreign ministry said.