* Announcement follows Israeli shooting down of drone
* Some analysts sceptical of defence equipment statements
By Yeganeh Torbati
DUBAI, Oct 28 Iran possesses drones that are far
more advanced than the unmanned aircraft Iranian-backed
Hezbollah launched into Israeli airspace this month, Iran's
defence minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Iran's military regularly announces defence and engineering
developments though some analysts are sceptical of the
reliability of such reports.
Earlier this month, Israel shot down a drone after it flew
25 miles (55 km) 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.
Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the downed drone
did not use his country's latest know-how, according to a report
from Iran's Mehr news agency on Sunday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran currently possesses unmanned
aircrafts with technology that is far more advanced than the
drone recently sent by Hezbollah forces to fly in the skies of
the Zionist regime (Israel)," he was quoted as saying.
"Undoubtedly the technology in the (Hezbollah) drone ... was
not Iran's latest technology."
Vahidi had earlier said that the drone's launch into Israel
was a sign of the Islamic Republic's military capabilities.
In April, Iran announced it had started to build a copy of a
U.S. surveillance drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel, which was captured
last year after it came down near the Afghan border.
Tensions in the region have simmered over Iran's disputed
nuclear programme and Israeli threats to bomb its nuclear sites
if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop Iranian nuclear activity
the West suspects is meant to develop a weapons capability.
Tehran says it is seeking only civilian nuclear energy.
In a speech on Saturday evening, Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad sought to present the country as a defender of peace
and security in the Gulf region, echoing comments made in the
past by Iranian military leaders.
"The Iranian nation has never been an aggressor nation, but
history has shown that it is a very good defender," Ahmadinejad
said at a ceremony to honour Iran's naval forces, according to
the Iranian Students' News Agency.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has always been a protector of
the security of the Persian Gulf."
He said: "The security of the Persian Gulf has only been
undermined when outsiders have been present there. Other than at
such points, the Persian Gulf has been completely secure and
this security has been created by Iran."
Iranian officials have said previously that the country
could block the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the
world's sea-borne oil trade, or strike U.S. military bases in
the region if it is attacked.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Andrew Osborn)