Iran welcomes US rescue of nationals from pirates
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Last Updated: Saturday, January 07, 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 07, 2012, 22:00


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