Iran has pictures of restricted Israeli areas: Iran MP

DUBAI Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:02am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran holds pictures of Israeli bases and other restricted areas obtained from a drone launched into Israeli airspace earlier this month, an Iranian lawmaker was quoted as saying on Monday.

Earlier this month, Israel shot down a drone after it flew 25 miles into the Jewish state. Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the aircraft, saying its parts had been manufactured in Iran and assembled in Lebanon.

The drone transmitted pictures of Israel's "sensitive bases" before it was shot down, said Esmail Kowsari, chair of parliament's defense committee, according to Iran's Mehr news agency. He was speaking to Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam, Mehr reported on Monday.

"These aircraft transmit their pictures online, and right now we possess pictures of restricted areas," Kowsari was quoted as saying.

In Tel Aviv, a senior Israeli military officer, asked whether the drone had been equipped with a camera capable of transmitting photos, said: "To the best of our knowledge, no."

The military recovered wreckage of the aircraft after it was shot down over a forest near the occupied West Bank.

Israeli air space is closely monitored by the military and, except for commercial air corridors, is restricted, with special attention paid to numerous military and security installations.

Israeli threats to bomb Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Tehran's nuclear program are a flashpoint for tensions in the Middle East. The West suspects the program is designed to develop a nuclear weapons capability, something Tehran steadfastly denies.

Iran's military regularly announces defense and engineering developments, though some analysts are skeptical of the reliability of such reports.

On Sunday Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the downed drone did not represent Iran's latest know-how in drone technology, according to Mehr.

In April, Iran announced it had started to build a copy of a U.S. surveillance drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, captured last year after it came down near the Afghan border.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Tel Aviv; Editing by William Maclean)

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