Iran General NewsIran shows its own video of vessels’ encounter in...

Iran shows its own video of vessels’ encounter in Gulf

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New York Times: Iran released its own video Thursday of the encounter on Sunday between Iranian patrol boats and American naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz in an effort to show that no confrontation occurred. The New York Times

By THOM SHANKER and NAZILA FATHI
Published: January 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — Iran released its own video Thursday of the encounter on Sunday between Iranian patrol boats and American naval vessels in the Strait of Hormuz in an effort to show that no confrontation occurred.

But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates immediately dismissed the idea that the Iranian sailors had behaved in a fully proper manner, and the State Department announced that it had formally protested the actions of Iranian patrol boats.

The new video, broadcast by Iran’s English-language satellite channel, Press TV, showed a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard standing on one of the small patrol boats and sending a radio message to the American vessels.

“Coalition warship No. 73, this is an Iranian patrol,” the Iranian sailor is heard to say in English, asking the American ship to confirm its number.

“This is coalition warship No. 73. I am operating in international waters,” an American voice replies.

The tape was intended to show that what happened was a routine exchange in which Iranian boats tried to identify the warships.

It came in response to a video released Tuesday by the Pentagon showing what President Bush has labeled “a provocative act”: Iranian speedboats maneuvering around and between three United States Navy warships passing from the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian clip shows the American convoy after it has already passed, while the American video clip begins with five speedboats approaching. Both nations now have released only a few minutes of what the Pentagon says was a half-hour encounter, part of a lengthy passage through the strait.

The two clips do not necessarily contradict each other, as both sides would have had enough time for a number of encounters of varying tenor.

Asked during a Pentagon news conference to respond to statements from Tehran that the new video clip proved Iranian boats behaved properly, Mr. Gates said, “Well, with respect to the latter and the charges of fabrication, I think that the most appropriate answer is actually the one that I heard on television last night from former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, who said, ‘Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?’ ”

Mr. Gates added, “I think that aptly characterizes and appropriately characterizes the Iranian claim.”

He said he had “no question whatsoever” that the Iranian speedboats acted recklessly and aggressively. He said his information came from the captains of the American ships and the Pentagon’s video of the encounter.

“I think that what concerned us was, first, the fact that there were five of these boats, and second, that they came as close as they did to our ships and behaved in what appeared to be a pretty aggressive manner,” Mr. Gates said.

Pentagon and Navy officials said they had no additional information on the source of a radio transmission threatening the American naval convoy during the encounter.

An audio portion of the clip released by the Pentagon includes a voice saying, “I am coming to you,” and adds, “You will explode after a few minutes.”

The Pentagon said the audio clip was recorded from the internationally recognized channel for ship-to-ship communications. The channel is open to all at sea or even on land within range of vessels.

Pentagon officials said they could not rule out that the broadcast had come from shore, or from another ship nearby. They said it might have come from one of the five speedboats even though it had none of the expected ambient noise of motor, wind or sea.

In the Iranian video released Thursday, three American ships could be seen, with a helicopter hovering over one of them.

The sound of the horn of an American vessel is heard at one point when one of the speedboats gets close to the ship. “Get closer slowly,” says one Iranian sailor, instructing his pilot in Persian as the boat approaches the American vessel. “We cannot see the number,” he added.

Iran has dismissed the American video as fabricated and has insisted that its patrol boats made no radio threats.

At the State Department on Thursday, Tom Casey, the deputy spokesman, said the United States had prepared a diplomatic note formally protesting the incident. The protest will be transmitted to Iran via Switzerland, the usual channel for such communications between the nations.

Thom Shanker reported from Washington, and Nazila Fathi from Tehran.

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