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WASHINGTON – Iran is constructing a simulated American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and according to US intelligence sources, Iran’s aim is to blow it up and later claim it has sunk an American aircraft carrier.

According to American sources, the sinking of the ship is designed for propaganda purposes, in case the nuclear program negotiations fail and the military tensions between Washington and Tehran intensify.

The New York Times reported Friday that American satellite images initially revealed the vessel in the Persian Gulf last summer, and its contours resemble the US Nimitz-class carrier. Mock planes were spotted on deck, which is about two-thirds the length of a typical Nimitz, and has no nuclear propulsion system.

US intelligence sources claimed, however, that Iran is not capable of building an aircraft carrier. “Based on our observations, this is not a functioning aircraft carrier; it’s a large barge built to look like an aircraft carrier,” said Jason Salata, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, across the Persian Gulf from Iran.

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