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Iran on Friday denied President Donald Trump's assertion that the U.S. Navy has destroyed one of its drones, saying all of its unmanned planes were safe, but there was no sign of a major Gulf escalation despite fears both sides could blunder into war.
Trump said Thursday that a U.S. Navy ship had destroyed an Iranian drone in a "defensive action," escalating already high tensions in the oil-rich Gulf region.
Iran dismissed the report.
"All drones belonging to Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz ... returned safely to their bases after their mission of identification and control," Abolfazl Shekarchi, a senior armed forces spokesman, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
"And there is no report of any operational response by USS Boxer."
The USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, took down the drone in the Strait of Hormuz earlier Thursday, Trump claimed.
Twenty percent of the world's crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.
The incident came four weeks after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone flying over international airspace the same area, in what American officials at the time called an "unprovoked attack."
During an event at the White House, Trump said, "The Boxer took defensive action against an Iranian drone, which had closed into a very, very near distance, approximately 1000 yards, ignoring multiple calls to stand down and was threatening the safety of the ship and the ship's crew."
"The drone was immediately destroyed," Trump said.
The president called the drone's approach toward the Boxer "the latest of many provocative and hostile actions against vessels operating in international waters."
He said the United States "reserves [the] right to defend our personnel, our facilities, and interests and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce."
"I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the Strait and to work with us in the future," Trump said.
A U.S. defense official would not say how the drone was brought down when asked by CNBC.
The USS Boxer is equipped with the Phalanx CIWS — close-in weapon system — for defense against threats including anti-ship missiles and helicopters.
The ship also is armed with short-range anti-ship missiles and non-kinetic systems that could be capable of targeting a drone.
The Pentagon, in a statement issued after the president spoke, said, "At approximately 10 a.m. local time, the amphibious ship USS Boxer was in international waters conducting a planned inbound transit of the Strait of Hormuz."
"A fixed wing unmanned aerial system (UAS) approached Boxer and closed within a threatening range. The ship took defensive action against the UAS to ensure the safety of the ship and its crew," the Pentagon said.
"We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS Unmanned Aerial System by mistake!," said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Twitter, referring to a U.S. warship in the strategic waterway.
Earlier this month, several Iranian boats approached a British commercial ship that was passing through the Strait of Hormuz and tried to stop its passage, but were driven off by a British military ship, NBC News has reported, citing a senior defense official and a British government spokesman.
A day after Iran shot down the U.S. drone on June 20, Trump approved military strikes on Iran in retaliation — but then abruptly cancelled them.
"We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General," Trump wrote in a tweet on June 21. "10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not.....proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone."
"We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran until the regime abandons its dangerous activities," including its nuclear ambitions, Trump said on June 24.
The new sanctions denied Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office access to key financial resources. The sanctions also targeted Iranian military leaders who were responsible for shooting down the drone.
—Reuters contributed to this report.