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Trump: Military action against Iran still remains ‘on the table’

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday he’s still considering military action against Iran after it downed an unmanned U.S. military aircraft, saying the use of force is “always on the table until we get this solved.”

Days after initially saying he found it “hard to believe” the shoot-down was intentional, Trump accused Iran of “knowingly” targeting the plane. He reiterated that he aborted a planned military strike set for Thursday after learning approximately 150 Iranians would be killed.

“I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians. I don’t want to kill 150 of anything or anybody unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he told reporters as he left the White House for the Camp David presidential retreat. Meetings about Iran were on the agenda, Trump said.

Trump said “we very much appreciate” a decision by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard not to shoot down a U.S. spy plane carrying more than 30 people, though he said the downing of the drone was “probably intentional.”

“But regardless, they targeted something without a person in it, without a man or woman, and certainly without anybody from the United States in it. So, we want to be proportionate,” Trump said.

The president’s comments came as Iran summoned the United Arab Emirates’ top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighboring Arab nation’s decision to allow the U.S. to use a base there to launch the drone that Iran says entered its airspace, state media reported Saturday.

Iran issued a “strong protest” to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory, the report by the official IRNA news agency said.

The U.S. said its RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down Thursday over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, not inside Iranian airspace.

The shoot-down by elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces marked the first time the Islamic Republic directly attacked the American military amid mounting tensions over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The two countries disputed the circumstances leading up to an Iranian surface-to-air missile bringing down the drone, an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner and costing over $100 million.

British diplomat Andrew Murrison planned to visit Iran today and call for the “urgent de-escalation in the region and raise U.K. and international concerns about Iran’s regional conduct” during talks with Tehran’s government, Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement Saturday.