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Iranian Reports of Downed U.S. Plane Are Contradictory, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2008 – A senior Defense Department spokesman dismissed Iranian-sourced reports that a U.S. military aircraft had been forced down in Iran.

The Iranian reports he has reviewed contradict themselves, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.

One story he read claimed that an American military aircraft had unintentionally violated Iranian airspace and had been forced to land in Iran, Whitman said. A subsequent Iranian state television report, he said, stated that the plane that was forced to land in Iran was not a U.S. military plane, but had Americans on board. Another Iranian TV report said the plane was not American, Whitman said.

A follow-on Iranian state television report, Whitman continued, said the plane in question was Hungarian.

“While we’re looking into those reports, there’s no evidence to suggest any of these reports are true, with perhaps the exception of the last one about some Hungarian plane,” Whitman said. There’s nothing to suggest the accuracy of any of the Iranian reports, he added.

Officials at Multinational Force Iraq issued a statement today saying all U.S. aircraft are accounted for, and none is missing.

Turning to other issues, Whitman said senior Chinese officials have canceled or postponed some previously scheduled military-to-military meetings with U.S. military representatives.

“These were some bilateral events, senior-level visits,” he said. “There was also a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exchange that was scheduled to occur between now and the end of November.”

The Chinese government has publicly voiced its displeasure with a recently concluded $6 billion U.S.-Taiwan arms deal. Taiwan, an island off the Chinese coast, broke away from the mainland in 1949 after Mao Zedong’s communist government emerged victorious in the Chinese civil war. Since then, China has vowed to reunite with Taiwan.

The United States supports a “One China” policy, recognizing China’s interests in Taiwan while supporting the Taiwanese government as an ally. The arms deal, which includes Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles, will be used to help modernize Taiwan’s military.

The Pentagon is disappointed with China’s apparent reaction to the arms deal with Taiwan, Whitman said. U.S. military-to-military relationships with China are important, he said, and contribute to regional understanding.

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