WASHINGTON — Iran has challenged another U.S. drone aircraft conducting routine surveillance over the tense Persian Gulf, but this time no shots were fired.

An unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone aircraft flying over international waters Tuesday was pursued by an Iranian F-4 fighter, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Thursday.

The Iranian jet approached to within 16 miles of the propeller-powered aircraft before being verbally warned away by a pilot in one of two American jets that were escorting the drone. The three U.S. aircraft were flying over international waters throughout the surveillance mission, Little said.

The United States and Iran are engaged in a standoff in the Gulf over the Islamic regime’s nuclear ambitions, and U.S. naval vessels and aircraft in the region have had confrontations in the past.

In November, an Iranian Su-25 jet fired on another unarmed Predator drone but missed. After that incident, “the United States communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters consistent with long-standing practice and our commitment to the security of the region,” Little said. “We also communicated that we reserve the right to protect our military assets as well as our forces and will continue to do so going forward.”

carroll.chris@stripes.comTwitter: @ChrisCarroll_

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