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Iran releases own video of U.S. Gulf incident

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran released a video on Thursday which it said showed its boats did not threaten U.S. navy vessels in the Gulf, countering Washington’s account of the event which President George W. Bush called “a provocative act.”

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The video, aired by Iran’s Press TV satellite station, gave a completely different version of Sunday’s incident in the Strait of Hormuz compared with one released earlier this week by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The incident was the latest sign of tension between Washington and Tehran, at odds over Iran’s nuclear program and who is to blame for the violence in Iraq. It coincides with Bush’s visit to the Middle East this week.

Press TV said the video, released by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a day after the force dismissed the Pentagon video as fake, included a recording of what it said was the exchange between the two sides.

Guards Brigadier General Ali Fadavi said Iran’s boats had only approached the U.S. ships to examine the registration numbers as they had been unreadable, Press TV said.

The video showed an Iranian naval officer in a small craft speaking via radio to a ship which could not be clearly identified. A total of three ships could be seen on the video. One had the number 73 emblazoned on the side of its bow.

“Coalition warship 73 this (is an) Iranian navy patrol boat,” the officer said in accented English.

“This is coalition warship 73. I read you loud and clear,” the person replied in what seemed to be an American accent.

The Iranian officer then appeared to ask for the ships to identify themselves, though his words at times were indistinguishable:

“Coalition warship 73 this (is) Iranian navy patrol boat, request side number ... operating in the area (at) this time.”

Fadavi, describing the Iranian action as normal inspections of vessels, accused the United States of creating a “media fuss,” Fars News Agency reported.

“The governing system of America, at the time of Bush’s failed trip to the region, is in need of such media fuss in order to reach its specific political goals,” he said.

In contrast, the Pentagon video included a voice from a U.S. ship informing one of the small craft that it was “straying into danger and may be subject to defensive measures.”

The craft responded: “You will explode after ... minutes,” according to the video.

Bush warned Iran on Wednesday of “serious consequences” if it attacked U.S. ships in the Gulf and said all options were on the table.

The Strait of Hormuz handles 17 million barrels per day of water-borne crude oil, over a third of total global shipments.

Editing by Dominic Evans