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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Iran welcomes 'humanitarian' rescue from pirates

Wasif Chudhary

The Iranian government has 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 announced 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.

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