Iran, US swap charges over standoff

Saudis, French appeal for calm

Email|Print| Text size + By Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press / January 10, 2008

TEHRAN - Iran accused the United States yesterday of fabricating video and audio released by the Pentagon showing Iranian boats confronting US warships in the Persian Gulf.

The video from Sunday's incident shows five small Iranian boats swarming around three US warships in the Strait of Hormuz. In the recording, a man speaking in heavily accented English threatened, "I am coming to you. . . . You will explode after . . . minutes."

"The footage released by the US Navy was compiled using file pictures and the audio has been fabricated," an official in Iran's Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying by the state-run English-language channel Press TV.

State TV did not give the name of the Revolutionary Guard official and did not offer more details.

US Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the "allegation is absurd, factually incorrect, and reflects the lack of seriousness with which they take this serious incident."

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley warned Iran against more confrontations.

"This is a provocative act - not a smart thing to do, and they are going to have to take responsibility for the consequences, if they do it again," Hadley told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Bush flew from Washington to Israel.

He added that his comments should not be seen as a threat.

Whitman said it was "fortunate that we did not have to escalate to the use of force, but as always, we are prepared to if our vessels are threatened in international waters."

In his news conference yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush called Iran a "threat to world peace" and warned that it would face "serious consequences" if it tried to attack US ships in the Persian Gulf. All options remain on the table, Bush said, a statement that some diplomatic and military officials in Washington said inflated the brief incident Sunday, the Washington Post reported.

The rising tensions prompted France and Saudi Arabia to call on Washington and Tehran to show caution.

"We hope this incident will not be repeated. We face a constant danger of escalation, so self-restraint is necessary for all players in the region," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told a news conference.

He also appeared to rebuff US efforts to raise the stakes over Iran. "We're a neighbor to Iran in the Gulf, which is a small area, so we're keen for harmony and peace among countries in the region," Faisal said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Iran about taking a dangerous action but cautioned the two nations to show "moderation."

In the four-minute, 20-second video released Tuesday, the Iranian boats appeared to ignore repeated warnings from the US ships, including horn blasts and radio transmissions. The video was shot from the bridge of the destroyer USS Hopper.

The audio and video recordings were made separately, then spliced together by the Navy. Often uneven and shaky, the video condenses what Navy officials have said was a confrontation of about 20 minutes.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards has said that its high-speed boats never threatened the US vessels, insisting it only asked them to identify themselves, then let them continue into the Gulf.

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