Iran meets with US Navy over piracy

A common fight against piracy brought U.S. and Iranian navy commanders together in a meeting with other participants earlier this month, the Iranian state news agency reported Thursday.

The report revealed the rare meeting only obliquely by relating the attendance of acting Iranian navy chief Admiral Gholam Reza Khaem Bigham at an international anti-piracy meeting earlier this month in Sri Lanka attended by 22 countries, including the United States.

This was one of first reports of a meeting involving military officials from the two countries since they severed ties in 1979, though there have been a number meetings of diplomatic officials in past years, especially over Afghanistan and Iran.

Iran's navy is involved in the international effort to protect shipping against piracy in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia over the past years.

The report did not say whether there were any face-to-face encounters between the two countries' military officials at the conference.

At the meeting, Admiral Bigham said international law against piracy should be tightened, since pirates are often just released after their arrest.

Iran routinely opposes the presence of the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf, regarding it as a threat to the country. There have been a number of incidents between the two navies in the crowded waterway.

There are reports, however, that navy personnel of the two countries sometimes exchange friendly words as well as jokes during their occasional contacts during patrols.

Iran's navy had close ties with its American counterpart before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that deposed pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Before 1979, many Iranian naval officers received training in the U.S., which also supplied much of its equipment.