DUBAI, July 17 (Reuters) - Iran on Tuesday criticised the actions of a U.S. navy ship that shot at an approaching fishing boat off the United Arab Emirates, saying the incident showed foreign forces threatened regional security.
One Indian national was killed and three others injured on Monday when the U.S. refuelling ship, the USNS Rappahannock, opened fire on a small motor boat which U.S. officials said ignored repeated warnings to halt its approach.
The United States has been building up its presence in the Gulf as Washington seeks to ramp up pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme which it suspects is aimed at producing nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the accusation.
“We have announced time and again that the presence of foreign forces can be a threat to regional security,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said during a news conference broadcast on state television.
“Certainly regional countries with the help of one another can provide security in the best possible way. If they join hands, with their defensive capabilities, they don’t need the presence of foreign forces. Anywhere where you see insecurity we have always seen the hand of foreign forces there.”
The shooting took place in waters near the UAE port of Jebel Ali, across the Gulf from Iran, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement. The UAE state news agency, quoting a government official, identified all of the dead and wounded as Indian nationals.
U.S. officials have not blamed terrorism or claimed any link between Iran and Monday’s incident, and it appears the incident may have been due to a misunderstanding. An investigation is underway, the U.S. navy said.
Iran’s repeated threats to close the Strait of Hormuz - through which 40 percent of the world’s sea-borne oil exports are carried - have alarmed Western capitals over the impact such an action could have on the price of oil.
Iranian spokesman Mehmanparast said the threats were “a deterrent” against those countries that have imposed sanctions against Iran and “threaten global energy supplies”.
The Indian foreign ministry said in a statement that its embassy in Abu Dhabi was working with UAE authorities to investigate Monday’s incident.
U.S. ambassador to India Nancy Powell telephoned Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai to convey her regret for the loss of life, the Indian foreign ministry said. A statement by the U.S. embassy in New Delhi conveyed condolences to the families of the crew of the vessel. (Reporting By Marcus George)