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Iran rejects U.S. request to return spy drone

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Iranian television showed the downed U.S. spy drone. (Reuters)

Iran has--unsurprisingly--rejected an American request to return its downed spy drone.

President Obama, speaking at a news conference with the visiting Iraqi prime minister Monday, said the United States had asked Iran to give the downed American reconnaissance plane back.

"We've asked for it back," President Obama said of the drone Monday. "We'll see how the Iranians respond."

Iranian news agencies ridiculed the request on Tuesday as Iranian officials made clear they had no intention of giving back the American drone.

"Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane," proclaimed a headline from Iran's Fars News Agency Tuesday.

"We are still wondering how he shamelessly asked Tehran to give the US back the stealth drone which had violated the Iranian airspace for espionage," the news agency wrote, referring to the American president.

"The American espionage drone is now Iran's property, and our country will decide what steps to take regarding it," Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told ran's ISNA news agency Monday, according to a BBC report. In another statement t the Mehr news agency, Vahidi said that "instead of apologizing to the Iranian nation, [the U.S.] is brazenly asking for the drone back."

The unusual American-Iran media jousting over the downed RQ-170 drone came as an Iran prosecutor announced Tuesday that he has indicted 15 "American and Zionist" spies.

"IRNA on Tuesday quoted Tehran's chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi as saying the suspects carried out espionage activities against Iran," the Associated Press reported Tuesday. "He did not elaborate on the nationality of the suspects, nor say when they were detained."

Last week, Lebanon's al-Manar TV, which is controlled by the Iran-allied Shiite militant group Hezbollah, identified 10 alleged undercover CIA officers working in Lebanon with diplomatic cover.

"Hezbollah made the names public in a broadcast Friday night on a Lebanese television station, al-Manar," the Associated Press's Adam Goldman reported Monday. "Using animated videos, the station recreated meetings purported to take place between CIA officers and paid informants at Starbucks and Pizza Hut."

"The disclosure comes after Hezbollah managed to partially unravel the agency's spy network in Lebanon after running a double agent against the CIA, former and current U.S. intelligence officials said," Goldman wrote.

The CIA dismissed the claims made in the Hezbollah broadcast, citing CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood: "The agency does not, as a rule, address spurious claims from terrorist groups. I think it's worth remembering that Hezbollah is a dangerous organization, with al-Manar as its propaganda arm. That fact alone should cast some doubt on the credibility of the group's claims."

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