Iran praises `humanitarian` US Navy
Tehran: Iran has hailed the actions of the US Navy as "humanitarian" after an American warship freed 13 Iranians held by Somali pirates.
"We consider the actions of the US forces in saving the lives of Iranian seamen to be a humanitarian and positive act and we welcome such behaviour," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying on Saturday by the Al-Alam broadcaster.
The US Navy said in a statement that the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd, part of the USS John C Stennis aircraft carrier strike group which just departed the Gulf, responded to a distress call from the Iranian boat Al Molai held by Somali pirates for more than 40 days.
A US Navy team from the USS Kidd was taken by a helicopter to the Iranian boat on Thursday. The boat was freed and 15 pirates were detained, Xinhua reported.
The pirates were believed to be Somalis. The Iranians were released after the US Navy restocked and refueled their vessel, said RIA Novosti.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the campaign against pirates was an "international obligation", and Iran has conducted such operations in the past against pirates to release sailors of other nations, Xinhua reported citing IRNA news agency.
The Iranians were also given food, water and medical care by the US Navy team.
The rescue operation came amid rising tension between the US and Iran, which conducted a 10-day naval exercise dubbed "Velayat 90" starting December 24. The USS John C Stennis was reportedly sent to the Gulf to observe the military drill.
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