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Iran denies confrontation with US ship in Gulf
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Iran on Friday denied any military confrontation between its boats and U.S. ships in the Gulf, the state media reported.

A senior official of the elite Revolutionary Guards rejected the Western reports that an American ship had opened fire on Iranian patrol boats in the Gulf, said the English channel Press TV.

"If UK or U.S. vessels had fired at Iranian boats, based on previous experiences, they would have faced the harshest reaction by Iranian forces," the official was quoted as saying.

U.S. officials said Friday that a vessel contracted by the U.S. Navy in the Gulf fired warning shots on two Iranian fast boats on Thursday.

The U.S. ship Westward Venture, contracted by the U.S. Military Sealift Command to carry military cargo to Kuwait, fired upon the boats after attempts to get the Iranian boats' attention failed, FOX News quoted Pentagon sources as saying, adding the ship was about 80 kilometers off the coast of Iran when the fast boats approached.

Some Iranian media also suggest if there was a shot, the boat said to be Iranian could be a private vessel and its nationality cannot be confirmed.

"Even if there was a shooting ... U.S. forces have likely shot at a non-military or fishing boat, and even then one cannot be certain that it was Iranian," the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported.

"There was no confrontation between the Iranian boats and the foreign boat in the Persian Gulf, if there was, they may have shotat non-Iranian boats," the state Al-Alam television also said.

This was the third time that U.S. vessels were said to encounter Iranian ships in the Gulf this year. In January, U.S. officials accused five Iranian speedboats of "seriously provoking three U.S. warships in the Straits of Hormuz" and "threatening to blow up U.S. ships". Iran denied the accusations and said the encounter was "normal".

On April 10, the U.S. Navy said three Iranian speedboats approached a U.S. patrol boat as it transited the Gulf but stopped after a warning flare was shot. Iran also denied there was a "confrontation".

(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2008)

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