Iran confirms incident with U.S. ships: agency

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Monday confirmed there was an “incident” between Iranian and U.S. ships but gave no details, an Iranian news agency reported, after Washington said Iranian vessels threatened their ships in the Strait of Hormuz.

Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route off the Iranian coast, over the weekend, CNN reported on Monday. REUTERS/Graphic

The Pentagon said five Iranian boats made aggressive maneuvers and showed hostile intent against three U.S. Navy ships on Saturday in the narrow entrance to the Gulf, a major oil shipping route.

The Pentagon said the incident was serious. It described the Iranian actions as “careless, reckless and potentially hostile” and said Tehran should provide an explanation.

But Iran played down the incident saying it was not unusual. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said that, as in other cases, this “incident” was resolved when the two sides identified each other.

“The example that happened on Saturday was similar to previous cases and is an ordinary and natural issue,” Hosseini told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

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“This is an ordinary issue that happens for the two sides every once in a while and after the identification of the two sides the issue is resolved,” he added without giving details.

The incident was the latest sign of tension between Washington and Tehran, at odds over a range of issues from Iran’s nuclear program to U.S. allegations of Iranian support for terrorism.

U.S. President George W. Bush is due to travel to the Middle East this week on a trip he has said is partly aimed at countering Iranian influence and what he has described as Tehran’s “aggressive ambitions”.

“We urge the Iranians to refrain from such provocative actions that could lead to a dangerous incident in the future,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

Oil prices briefly rose on the news about the confrontation as dealers weighed the threat to oil shipments along the key shipping route. Crude futures jumped 49 cents to $98.40 a barrel before slipping back.

Reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Zahra Hosseinian; writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Sami Aboudi