Iran Airs Own Video of Boats With U.S. Ships in Persian Gulf, Showing No Standoff Between Vessels

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Iran aired video Thursday of its boats and U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf in an apparent attempt to show that there was no confrontation between the vessels.

The grainy 5-minute, 20-second video showed a man speaking into a handheld radio, with three U.S. ships floating in the distance. It appeared to be shot from a small boat bobbing at least 100 meters (yards) from the American warships.

The footage did not show any Iranian boats approaching the U.S. vessels, nor any provocation. But the short clip likely did not show Sunday's entire encounter, which U.S. Navy officials described as threatening, and said lasted about 20 minutes.

It aired on Iran's state-run English-language channel Press TV, whose signal is often blocked inside Iran.

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The clip also aired on the state-run Al-Alam Arabic channel, with an announcer saying the video showed "a routine and regular measure."

At first, the footage was broadcast without sound, but state TV later aired the clip with audio of radio transmissions between the boats.

"Coalition warship 73, this is (an) Iranian navy patrol boat, how do you copy?" a man's voice said in heavily-accented English.

"This is coalition warship 73, I read you loud and clear. We are operating in international waters," an American voice replied.

In Washington, a Pentagon official said the video appeared to have been taken around the time of Sunday's confrontation but that the controversial parts of the incident were edited out. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the video on the record.

Speaking from the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, Navy Cdr. Lydia Robertson said the clips aired by the Iranians supported what version of events the U.S. Navy had presented.

"We did not videotape the whole transit and obviously neither did they," she said, adding that the transit usually takes about two hours.

What you see on Iranian and American videos are probably "two different parts of the ship's transit through the Strait," Robertson said.

The Pentagon has released its own video of Sunday's incident, showing small Iranian boats swarming around U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz.

In the recording, a man threatens in English, "I am coming to you. ... You will explode after ... minutes."

The incident, which ended without any shots fired, has heightened U.S.-Iranian tension as President Bush visits the region. Bush was in the West Bank on Thursday, and heads next to Arab Gulf nations where he is expected to discuss strategy on Iran.

Iran has denied its boats threatened the U.S. vessels, and accused Washington of fabricating its video. The Pentagon dismissed that claim and warned its ships would respond with force if threatened.

On Thursday, the Web site of the Iranian state broadcasting company quoted a top Revolutionary Guards commander as calling the Pentagon's video "unusual and illogical."

"This attention by the U.S. media and officials to a routine encounter means Americans are taking an unusual approach to very ordinary issue," Gen. Ali Fadavi, the Guards' acting naval chief, was quoted as saying.