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Iran unveils aircraft claimed to be biggest drone yet developed, capable of 30-hour flight

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TEHRAN, Iran - Iran unveiled a new aircraft Monday that it says is the biggest drone yet to be developed in the Islamic Republic, capable of staying aloft for up to 30 hours.

Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said the reconnaissance and combat drone Fotros has a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles). That would cover much of the Middle East, including Israel. The earlier Shahed-129 (Witness-129) drone is reported to have a similar range, but can only stay aloft 24 hours.

"This drone is able to carry out reconnaissance missions and carry air-to-surface rockets for combat operations," the official IRNA news agency quoted Dehghan as saying.

Dehghan said scientists at Iranian Aircraft Manufacturing Industries, affiliated to Iran's Defence Ministry, have designed and developed the drone. He said the country has achieved self-sufficiency in building drones, but didn't elaborate.

Iran has pursued a military self-sufficiency program since 1980s, and frequently announces technological breakthroughs including the building of jet fighters, tanks, missile, submarines, torpedoes and drones. Most cannot be independently confirmed.

He said the new drone is a key strategic addition to Iran's military capabilities, and was developed despite tough sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program.

"Sanctions by enemies can't create an obstacle in the path of progress for our defence industries," IRNA quoted him as saying.

The sanctions were imposed on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a program that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or materials for a warhead.

The country says it is fighting an intelligence battle with the U.S. and Israel, which accuse Tehran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is peaceful and geared toward generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

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