Iran claims video of Gulf naval confrontation was fabricated

IRAN accused the United States yesterday of fabricating video and audio released by the Pentagon showing Iranian boats confronting US warships in the Persian Gulf.

The video from Sunday’s incident shows small Iranian boats swarming around US warships in the Strait of Hormuz. In the recording, a man speaking in heavily accented English threatened, “I am coming to you. ... You will explode after ... minutes.”

“The footage released by the US Navy was compiled using file pictures and the audio has been fabricated,” an official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said.

State TV did not give the name of the Revolutionary Guard official and did not offer more details about how the official knew the footage was “fabricated.”

US Defence Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the “allegation is absurd, factually incorrect and reflects the lack of seriousness with which they take this serious incident.”

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley warned Iran against more confrontations.

“This is a provocative act — not a smart thing to do, and they are going to have to take responsibility for the consequences, if they do it again,” Hadley told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Bush flew from Washington to Israel. He added that his comments should not be seen as a threat.

Whitman said it was “fortunate that we did not have to escalate to the use of force, but as always, we are prepared to if our vessels are threatened in international waters.”

In the four-minute, 20-second video released on Tuesday, the Iranian boats appeared to ignore repeated warnings from the US ships, including horn blasts and radio transmissions. The video was shot from the bridge of the destroyer USS Hopper.

After spotting the approaching Iranian boats, a navy crew member on the Hopper says over the radio: “This is coalition warship. I am engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law. Intend no harm.”

The audio and video recordings were made separatelyn but were pulled together by the navy. Often uneven and shaky, the video condenses what navy officials have said was a confrontation of about 20 minutes.

The Iranian fleet of high-speed boats charged the US warships and threatened to blow up the navy convoy as it passed near but outside Iranian waters, according to Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, the top navy commander in the Gulf. The Iranian fleet “manoeuvred aggressively” and fled as the American ship commanders were preparing to open fire, he said. No shots were fired.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has said that its high-speed boats never threatened the US vessels during the encounter.

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