updated 1/16/2011 12:36:50 PM ET 2011-01-16T17:36:50

Iran said Sunday that the two U.S. pilotless spy planes that it claimed to have shot down were hit outside of Iran's air space, a local news agency reported.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Gen. Gholam Ali Rashid, acting chief of the country's armed forces as saying "the planes were shot down outside of Iran's airspace."

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Gen. Rashid did not say why Iran targeted the planes even though they weren't in the country's air space. He did say Iran has the remains of the planes in its possession.

On Saturday, Iran said it had determined the two aircraft were operated by the U.S. after earlier this month announcing their downing.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in the Gulf, said at the time that it had no reports of any aircraft downed recently.

Iran originally said the planes were violating its air space. It's not clear when they were downed but Iranian officials have hinted that they deliberately didn't make an announcement at the time to avoid tensions with the U.S.

Tehran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which the West believes aims to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is peaceful.

The Persian nation holds frequent military drills along the Persian Gulf — primarily to assert an ability to defend against a potential U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, but also to send a message of strength to Arab neighbors on Iran's southern border.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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