August 25, 2016 / 3:01 PM / 3 years ago

Iran minister defends encounter with U.S. warship

Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan delivers a speech as he attends the 5th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow, Russia, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iran’s defense minister said on Thursday four of his country’s vessels accused of harassing a U.S. warship were only doing their job, and Tehran would confront any American ship that entered its waters.

The vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) conducted what a U.S. defense official described as a “high speed intercept” of the warship on Tuesday in the Strait of Hormuz.

The official said two of the Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the USS Nitze in an incident that was “unsafe and unprofessional,” underlining the tensions that remain more than a year after Washington and other Western powers reached a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and lifted sanctions.

Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said Thursday that the ships had only been carrying out their regular duties monitoring foreign ships near Iranian waters. 

“If an American ship enters Iran’s maritime region, it will definitely get a warning. We will monitor them and, if they violate our waters, we will confront them,” he said in a stark statement reported by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

The United States and its allies are concerned about Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war, Tehran’s ballistic missile program, and its backing for Shi’ite militias accused of abusing civilians in neighboring Iraq.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh

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