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Iran calls Trump ‘delusional’ and denies the US Navy destroyed its drone

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Tehran on Friday denied the United States had downed one of its drones, saying all Iranian aircraft were accounted for and jesting Washington may have accidentally hit their own machine.

The latest incident in the strategic Strait of Hormuz comes amid soaring tensions between the two foes, with Washington already reeling from Iran shooting down one of its drones last month.

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US President Donald Trump said an American naval vessel downed an Iranian drone on Thursday that threatened the ship as it was entering the Strait — a claim vehemently denied by Tehran.

Iran’s armed forces dismissed Trump’s assertion as “baseless and delusional” while admitting one of their drones was flying near the US ship.

“All of (Iran’s) drones… have safely returned to their bases,” said armed forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi.

“There have been no reports of a confrontation with the American USS Boxer” naval vessel, he added, quoted by Tasnim news agency.

The Revolutionary Guards said they will “soon” publish photos taken by one of their drones of the USS Boxer.

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Images were transmitted to base “before and even after the time Americans claim” the drone was destroyed, according to a statement on the force’s Sepahnews website.

The Pentagon said the ship “was in international waters” when a drone approached at approximately 10:00 am local time (0530 GMT).

Trump said Thursday the USS Boxer “took defensive action” against an Iranian aircraft as it was “threatening the safety” of the vessel and its crew.

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But Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi quipped that the United States may have actually downed one of its own aircraft.

“I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own (drone) by mistake!” Abbas Araghchi tweeted Friday.

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– Iran detains tanker –

The confrontation comes after Tehran in June shot down an American surveillance drone it said was flying in its airspace, a claim denied by the United States.

Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute following the incident.

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Iran has in turn refuted US accusations that it was behind a series of recent tanker attacks off the United Arab Emirates coast and the Gulf of Oman.

The tanker troubles further intensified on July 4, when Gibraltar detained an Iranian vessel with the help of British Royal Marines.

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Grace 1 supertanker can be detained for 30 more days.

US officials believed the vessel was destined for Syria to deliver oil, in violation of separate sets of European Union and US sanctions.

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Following the seizure Iran branded the move “piracy” and, one week later, London said Iranian boats menaced a British tanker in the Gulf before they were driven off by a Royal Navy frigate.

That led to US calls for an international flotilla to escort hydrocarbon-laden vessels from Gulf oil fields through the Strait of Hormuz.

The incidents have raised fears of a regional conflict involving the US and its allies in the Gulf region, through which nearly a third of the world’s oil is transported.

The top commander of Iran’s Guards said they were not seeking to “initiate a war” but would respond to hostilities.

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“If enemies make a mistake in calculation, our defensive strategy and all our capacities will change to offensive,” said General Hossein Salami, quoted by Sepahnews.

His comments came after the Guards said Thursday they had seized a “foreign tanker” believed to be the Panamanian-flagged vessel Riah and its crew.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accuse the ship of smuggling Iranian fuel.

– ‘Psychological pressure’ –

US Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie pledged Thursday to work “aggressively” with partners to ensure freedom of navigation in Gulf waters.

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But the Guards’ deputy chief said the United States will soon realise “it is not in its interest at all to stay in the region”.

US forces are under mounting “psychological pressure” in the Gulf, Brigadier-General Ali Fadavi was quoted by Tasnim as saying.

The drone incident comes amid a threatened breakdown of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Washington steadily ratcheting up economically debilitating sanctions on Tehran a year after unilaterally quitting the deal.

Earlier this month, Tehran purposely surpassed the deal’s caps on uranium enrichment, aiming to pressure the remaining parties to make good on their promises to support Iran economically.

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Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if Tehran’s oil exports are blocked through sanctions.

Last month Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said Iran was keeping up sales through “unconventional” means to circumvent the US measures.


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Many Republicans privately admit their party is now ‘built largely on lies’: White House veteran

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In the wake of the first day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump, contributor for The Atlantic and conservative think-tank fellow Peter Wehner wrote that yesterday's testimony from senior US diplomat Bill Taylor "was merely another massive boulder in the avalanche of evidence against the president."

"We are well beyond the point that any disinterested person can deny that the president abused his power and acted in a corrupt manner, in ways the American founders explicitly warned against," Wehner writes.

According to Wehner, yesterday's hearing only deepened the "complicity" of Republicans in Trump's latest scandal.

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Ohio GOP bill may bar teachers from penalizing students who give creationist answers on biology tests: ACLU

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A bill that passed Ohio's House of Representatives this week is being criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for vague language that could prevent biology teachers from penalizing students who give creationist answers to questions about evolution.

Local news station WKRC reports that the legislation, which passed the House and is now awaiting debate in the Ohio Senate, states that "students can't be penalized if their work is scientifically wrong as long as the reasoning is because of their religious beliefs."

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Trump-loving Kentucky governor finally concedes after his recanvass bid falls flat

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Matt Bevin, the Trump-loving governor of Kentucky, admitted on Thursday that he will soon be a former governor.

Local news station Lex 18 reports that Bevin has now conceded his race to Governor-elect Andy Beshear after a recanvass bid resulted in him still being short of votes.

"I just want to be clear, we’re going to have a change in the governorship based on the vote of the people," Bevin said in acknowledging his defeat. "I love this state, I love this country."

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