190621 US air force
This undated US Air Force file photo released on June 20, 2019 shows a photo of a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Image Credit: AFP

Iran on Thursday insisted that a US drone had entered its airspace in “full stealth mode,” calling the flight “provocative” and “very dangerous” as it justified its decision to shoot the aircraft down.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council, saying the American drone was engaged in a “clear spying operation.”

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He called the flight a “blatant violation of international law”.

“While the Islamic Republic of Iran does not seek war, it reserves its inherent right... to take all appropriate necessary measures against any hostile act violating its territory, and is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air,” Ravanchi said.

“This is not the first provocative act by the United States against Iran’s territorial integrity.”

The Pentagon denounced the shoot-down as an “unprovoked attack” in international air space, claiming the RQ-4 Global Hawk was some 34 kilometres from Iran when destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.

The drone downing comes amid high tensions between the US and Iran, which was already accused by Washington of carrying out attacks on tanker ships.

Tehran denies being behind the attacks but has frequently threatened to block the sea lanes used to move much of the world’s oil exports.