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International relations

US downs Iranian drone ahead of coalition gathering

Trump claims defensive action against 'provocative actions'

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer transits the San Diego Bay in California. President Donald Trump says the USS Boxer destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between the two countries.   © AP

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Navy vessel destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, President Donald Trump said Thursday at the White House, in a move likely to draw strong rebuke from Tehran.

Trump said that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship,took "defensive action against an Iranian drone," which had come within roughly 900 meters of the vessel. "The drone was immediately destroyed," after ignoring multiple calls to stand down, he said.

The incident comes a day before the Trump administration hosts a multinational meeting with allies and partners to discuss ways to safeguard passage of ships through the Hormuz.  

"This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters," Trump said. The U.S. "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," he said.

"I also call on other nations to protect their ships as they go through the strait and to work with us in the future," the president added, stressing the need to form a united front against the Iranian threat.

The downing occurred around 10 a.m. local time, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters at the United Nations on Thursday that he was not aware of any downing of an Iranian drone.

"We have no information about losing a drone today," Zarif said ahead of a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The shooting marks a further escalation of tensions between the two sides. Iran in June shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile. Iran says the drone was in its airspace, but Washington says it was in international skies.

The Trump administration is set to hold meetings Friday with allies, including Japan, to discuss forming a maritime coalition to safeguard commercial vessels passing through the strait. The White House apparently revealed its downing of the Iranian drone in an attempt to play up the need for such patrol operations.

Officials from the defense and state departments will meet with diplomats from potential coalition partners. The participants have not been identified, but Asian countries reliant on Middle East oil imports are among those likely to be involved.

The U.S. military will oversee surveillance and monitoring of suspicious vessels under the proposed plan, with protection of private ships to be handled by the coalition partners.  Details on each nation’s role and the start of the coalition initiative are expected to be explained at the Friday meeting.

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