WASHINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - A charter aircraft flying from the U.S. airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan to Dubai was re-routed to Bandar Abbas, Iran, on Friday because of "issues with the flight plan," a U.S. State Department official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Iranian authorities asked the Fly Dubai aircraft to return to Afghanistan. When told the aircraft did not have enough fuel to fly back, it was rerouted to Bandar Abbas, the official said, expressing the hope it would be able to leave Iran soon.
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.
At present, the two are divided over the Iranian nuclear program, which Washington suspects is aimed at building a bomb but which Iran says is for strictly civilian purposes.
The United States, which has spearheaded sanctions against Tehran for its refusal to give up sensitive uranium enrichment work, is negotiating with other major powers to try to get Iran to curb its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.
The State Department official said an earlier report that Iranian fighter aircraft had forced the plane to land in Iran was not correct.
The official said "there were issues with the flight plan" of the plane, which was carrying about 100 Americans and possibly two Canadians.
In a statement, a Fly Dubai representative also played down the incident, saying the flight "has been diverted en route to Dubai and an updated arrival time is being established." (Reporting by David Brunnstrom, David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)