Iran deliberately delayed its announcement that it had captured an American surveillance drone to test US reaction, the country's foreign minister said on Saturday.
Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran finally went public with its possession of the RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone to disprove contradictory statements from U.S. officials.
Iran, which put the aircraft on display last week, has tried to trumpet the downing of the drone as a feat of Iran's military in a complicated technological and intelligence battle with the U.S. Tehran also has rejected a formal U.S. request to return the plane, calling it's incursion an "invasion" and a "hostile act."
"When our armed forces nicely brought down the stealth American surveillance drone, we didn't announce it for several days to see what the other party (U.S.) says and to test their reaction," Salehi told the official IRNA news agency. "Days after Americans made contradictory statements, our friends at the armed forces put this drone on display."
Salehi said Iran's position is not to return the drone, but he didn't completely rule out the possibility of a deal.
"Any decision-making about this issue rests with the Supreme National Security Council," IRNA quoted Salehi as saying. The council is Iran's highest security decision-making body and handles the country's talks with the West over Iran's disputed nuclear program.
Salehi said Iran won a complicated technological battle with the U.S. by intercepting and taking control of the plane with an electronic ambush.
"Regardless of whether the US believes it or not, the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran brought down the aircraft largely intact without assistance from any foreign country," he said.
American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned.
Iranian state media has said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the border with Afghanistan.