Iran patrol boats challenge U.S. ships in Persian Gulf
On the eve of President Bush's Middle East trip, five Iranian patrol boats charged at three U.S. Navy ships entering the Persian Gulf on...
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — On the eve of President Bush's Middle East trip, five Iranian patrol boats charged at three U.S. Navy ships entering the Persian Gulf on Sunday in what the Pentagon described as a "serious" provocation.
The high-speed Iranian boats, manned by Revolutionary Guards, dropped "white boxlike objects" in the water that the U.S. ships evaded, according to Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff. "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes," a radio transmission from one of the patrol boats warned.
The U.S. ships were preparing to fire at the Iranian vessels when the Iranians abruptly turned and sped away, U.S. officials said.
The Bush administration Monday cautioned Iran about the potential dangers of such actions.
"We would urge Iran to refrain from any provocative actions that could lead to dangerous incidents in the future," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "There are a number of military, as well as commercial vessels that have legitimate passage through the Strait of Hormuz. We believe that should continue."
Iran played down the incident as a "regular and natural issue. ... That's something normal taking place every now and then for each party and it [the problem] is settled after identification of the two parties," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini told the Iranian news agency IRNA. Similar incidents in the past were resolved when the two sides identified each other, he said.
But U.S. officials rejected that claim. "This is not something that our vessels encounter on a daily basis," McCormack said.
The confrontation lasted about 20 minutes.
The three U.S. ships, sailing in international waters, were the cruiser USS Port Royal and the destroyers USS Hopper and USS Ingraham.
heading to Iran
VIENNA, Austria — The chief U.N. nuclear inspector is heading to Iran this week, a visit that will overlap with President Bush's Middle East tour.
Diplomats, meanwhile, said Tehran has begun sharing information about past programs the U.S. says were attempts to make nuclear weapons.
As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei has spearheaded years of efforts to press Iran for full disclosure of its nuclear activities.
Announcing his trip Monday, ElBaradei spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said he would be in Tehran on Friday and Saturday and would meet with top officials, but gave no details. However, a diplomat familiar with ElBaradei's itinerary said the nuclear chief expected to meet with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The trip comes at a time of renewed U.S. efforts to keep the pressure on Iran on the nuclear issue.
During his Middle East tour, Bush is expected to seek backing for U.S. concerns about Iran's refusal to cease uranium enrichment and other activities that could ultimately be used to make nuclear arms.
A recent U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran had a clandestine weapons program but stopped working on it four years ago has hurt Washington's attempts to have the U.N. Security Council impose a third set of sanctions on Tehran for failing to halt enrichment.
The Associated Press
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