Iran: U.S. Spreading Anti-Iranian Sentiment Through Hormuz Boat Incident

Iran charged Sunday that the United States was trying to spread anti-Iranian sentiment in the Mideast by accusing Iranian boats of threatening U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf.

The U.S. has said an Iranian fleet of high-speed boats zoomed dangerously close to a three-ship U.S. Navy convoy passing near Iranian waters on Jan. 6 in the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian boats veered away as the American ship commanders were preparing to open fire.

Iran has insisted its boats never threatened the U.S. ships and that the incident was a normal occurrence in the Gulf waters.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini reiterated Sunday that the incident was not unusual and would not affect Iran's policies in the region. He accused the Bush administration of trying to stir up tensions in the Gulf.

"Some political factions in the U.S. are pursuing adventurism to help Bush to spread Iran-phobia in the region," Hosseini said at a weekly press conference. "U.S. officials should apologize to Iran, regional countries and the American people."

Earlier Sunday in Bahrain, U.S. Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which patrols the Gulf, told Bush, who was in Bahrain as part of a Mideast tour, that he took the incident "deadly seriously."

On Friday, the Navy also said one of its ships had fired warning shots at a small Iranian boat in the Strait of Hormuz in December during one of two serious encounters with such craft that month.

But Hosseini on Sunday said: "This was not confirmed by any of the relevant authorities."