Iran’s Guard acknowledges encounter with US during a drill

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In this Wednesday, April 15, 2020, photo made available by U.S. Navy, Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels sail close to U.S. military ships in the Persian Gulf near Kuwait. A group of 11 Iranian naval vessels made “dangerous and harassing” maneuvers near U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf near Kuwait on Wednesday, in one case passing within 10 yards (meters) of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, U.S. officials said. Iranian officials did not immediately acknowledge the incident. (U.S. Navy via AP)

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged Sunday it had a tense encounter with U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf last week, but alleged without offering evidence that American forces sparked the incident.

The incident Wednesday saw the U.S. Navy release video of small Iranian fast boats coming close to American warships as they operated in the northern Persian Gulf near Kuwait, with U.S. Army Apache helicopters.

In the Guard’s telling, its forces were on a drill and faced “the unprofessional and provocative actions of the United States and their indifference to warnings.” It said the Americans later withdrew.

The Guard released no video or evidence to support its allegation. It also accused American forces of blocking Iranian warships on April 6 and April 7 as well.

Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said the Navy stood by its earlier description of the incident Wednesday.

“Regarding any other interactions with our ships, U.S. forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner,” Pagano told The Associated Press in reference to the Guard’s claims of other recent incidents.

The incident comes amid still-heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Armed men boarded a Hong Kong-flagged tanker ship Tuesday off the coast of Iran near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, holding the ship for a short time near the Iranian coast before releasing it. Though Iran has not acknowledged the incident, private security firms say the Guard was behind the seizure.

In a tweet Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif kept up his criticism of President Donald Trump, claiming Iran soon would export ventilators despite facing one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

“All you need to do is stop interfering in the affairs of other nations; mine especially,” Zarif wrote. “And believe me, we do not take advice from ANY American politician.”

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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