DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian official said on Saturday that an airliner carrying Americans from Afghanistan to Dubai had been forced to land in Iran because the crew had supplied “false information”.
The chartered Fly Dubai plane, carrying about 100 Americans from the U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan, landed in Dubai early on Saturday morning after being diverted to Bandar Abbas, just across the Strait of Hormuz.
“The crew used false information so the authorities became suspicious ... Because the information provided was incorrect, we asked the airplane to land so we could gather more information,” said Jassem Jaderi, governor of Hormozgan province in southern Iran, according to the official Mehr News Agency.
A U.S. State Department official said the plane had failed to update its flight plan after leaving Bagram several hours late for Dubai, on a route that took it over Iran.
When Iranian civil aviation officials identified the plane, they could not find it in their system because it was supposed to have flown through hours earlier, the official said.
Iranian officials first told it to turn around but, when told it did not have enough fuel to return to Afghanistan, they asked it to land at Bandar Abbas, the official said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that, contrary to some media reports, “no Iranian jets were scrambled in this situation”.
“We appreciate the efforts of all parties to help the passengers get safely to their destination,” she added.
Jaderi, the first Iranian official to comment, said the passengers had been treated appropriately and offered the use of the airport lounge facilities, but had chosen not to accept.
Washington and Tehran have had an antagonistic relationship for decades. The United States cut diplomatic ties with Iran in April 1980, five months after Iranian students occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took U.S. citizens hostage. Fifty-two Americans were ultimately held for 444 days.
The two countries are now at odds over Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington suspects is aimed at building a bomb but which Iran says is for strictly civilian purposes.
Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; Writing by Angus MacDowall; Editing by Kevin Liffey