Iran welcomes US rescue of nationals from pirates

Last Updated: Saturday, January 7, 2012 - 22:00

Tehran: The Iranian government on Saturday welcomed
a US navy rescue of 13 of its nationals from pirates near the
entrance to the Gulf, in a rare respite from months of rising
tensions between Tehran and Washington.

But one Iranian media outlet, the Fars news agency,
which is close to the hardline Revolutionary Guards, dismissed
the incident as a suspect "Hollywood movie" meant "to justify
the presence of a (US) aircraft carrier in Persian Gulf
waters."

The rescue was carried out on Thursday by one of
several warships escorting the carrier USS John C. Stennis --
which Iranian military chiefs early this week warned to stay
out of Gulf waters or else face the "full force" of Iran`s
navy.

"We consider the actions of the US forces in saving
the lives of the Iranian seamen to be a humanitarian and
positive act and we welcome such behaviour," foreign ministry
spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iran`s Arabic-language
broadcaster Al-Alam on Saturday.

"We think all nations should display such behaviour,"
he added.

The US military on Friday that one of the vessels
escorting the Stennis, the USS Kidd, rescued the Iranian
fishermen from around 45 days of captivity at the hands of
pirates thought to be Somalis. It said the Iranian captain of
the dhow had asked the Kidd for help.

The pirates were taken into custody and the Iranian
fishermen released to return home on their dhow, which was
refuelled and restocked with provisions supplied by the US
navy vessels.

"It is like you were sent by God," one of the Iranian
fishermen, Fazel Ur Rehman, 28, was quoted as telling his US
rescuers by the New York Times newspaper, which had a reporter
and photographer travelling on the Stennis.

The US reporter boarded the Iranian fishing vessel, Al
Mulahi, with US navy personnel and spoke with its crew, as
well as with several of the Somali pirates arrested by the
Americans.

The Iranian captain, Mahmed Younes, 28, told the New
York Times the pirates had captured his vessel in late
November and had since been using it as a mother ship for
their operations around the region.

Photographs of the Iranian dhow and crew, and of the
arrested pirates, were published on the New York Times
website.

Iran`s official IRNA news agency initially said a US
warship had only "claimed" to have carried out the rescue, and
that Iranian military leaders had not confirmed it.

The Fars news agency then reported that the rescue was
nothing more than a "Hollywood movie" that was the object of a
"media blitz" by the Pentagon.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, January 7, 2012 - 22:00
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