Iran unveils 'indigenous' drone with 2,000km range

Islamic Revolution Guards Corps troops take part in a military parade in Tehran (21 September 2012) There are heightened tensions between the West and Iran over its nuclear programme

Iran has unveiled what it says is a new "indigenous" long-range unmanned drone capable of flying over most of the Middle East, state media report.

The Shahed (Witness) 129 had a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles) and could be equipped with bombs and missiles, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said.

It is reportedly capable of carrying out reconnaissance and combat missions.

Last year, the Iranian authorities displayed a US drone which they claimed to have brought down electronically.

The US insisted that Iran neither shot down the the RQ-170 Sentinel nor used electronic warfare or cyber-technology to force it from the sky. They blamed a malfunction.

Later, the head of the IRGC's aerospace programme, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said it was trying to build a copy of the drone. It is not clear whether the Shahed 129 bears any resemblance.

Defences 'ready'

The unveiling of the drone follows a major naval exercise in the Gulf by the US and its allies.

Iranian TV images of downed drone. 8 Dec 2011 Iran refused to return the US RQ-170 Sentinel drone it captured in December 2011

Thirty countries participated in the manoeuvres designed to test the international community's capacity to deal with mines that could hamper shipping in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world's oil supply is transported.

The exercises took place amid heightened tensions between the West and Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

On Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was not concerned by the threat that Israel could launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

"Fundamentally we do not take seriously the threats of the Zionists," he told reporters in New York. "We have all the defensive means at our disposal and we are ready to defend ourselves."

He also ignored a plea by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for both sides to avoid "incendiary rhetoric" by saying the modern state of Israel had "no roots" in the Middle East and would eventually be "eliminated".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned that Iran was only six or seven months from having "90%" of what it needed to make a nuclear bomb, and urged the US to draw a "red line" which if crossed would lead to military intervention.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

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