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Iran airs its version of encounter with U.S. ships

  • Story Highlights
  • Iran's Press TV airs video it says shows Sunday's naval incident between Iran, U.S.
  • Tape shows Iranian boats, U.S. ships calmly exchanging information
  • U.S. says the video leaves out the part where Iranian boats raced toward ships
  • Radio transmission that may have come from boats threatened ships, U.S. says
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran on Thursday released video of its naval forces interacting with U.S. coalition warships in the Persian Gulf region -- but unlike video from the Pentagon, it did not show a threatening exchange.

A frame from the video aired on Iran's Press TV shows a U.S. ship in the Persian Gulf.

The shaky five-minute video aired on Iran's Press TV -- widely viewed as the mouthpiece for Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps -- and was posted on Press TV's Web site.

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Sunday's incident in the Strait of Hormuz "almost involved an exchange of fire between our forces and Iranian forces." Iran maintains that it was a routine communication and accuses the United States of exaggerating the incident for political purposes.

The Iranian video is shot from a watercraft that does not appear to be moving. For the first 2 minutes, the camera zooms in on what appears to be three U.S. coalition warships, some distance away, and a helicopter flying above the vessels. Video Watch the Iranian video »

The video occasionally stops and restarts. The audio contains crosstalk in Farsi by men who are not in the camera's view.

About halfway into the video that was released on the Web site, a bearded man in an orange safety vest and a checkered scarf appears on the camera and begins speaking over the radio to one of the U.S. warships. The silhouettes of the U.S. naval ships can been seen on the horizon, a long distance away.

The man hails the U.S. ship in English and the two vessels identify themselves.

The voice from the U.S. ship states that it is operating in international waters.

After several calm radio exchanges between the two, and at least one edit on the video, it cuts to a blue speedboat with men in orange vests on board, speeding away from the U.S. warships toward the camera.

A U.S. Navy official said the Iranian video "appears to be truthful showing three ships making a transit of the Strait of Hormuz."

But, he added, "Clearly the video is edited to include only the verbal context the Iranians wanted to include."

He says the transmissions via handheld radio by the Iranian appear to be standard "hail" messages that ships in the region send each other. But the Iranian video only shows their fastboats at idle and does not show the rest of the encounter, he said.

Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet, said the U.S. ships received a "threatening" radio transmission as they traveled through the narrow Strait of Hormuz on Sunday. The transmission indicated the boats were closing in on the U.S. ships and that the U.S. ships would "explode," Cosgriff said. See where the encounter took place »

No shots were fired and no one was hurt in the confrontation, which began around 8 a.m. on Sunday and lasted about 20 minutes, the Defense Department said.

The USS Port Royal, the USS Hopper and the USS Ingraham were traveling in formation after completing a routine transit through the strait, the U.S. Navy said.

Five boats, suspected to be from the Islamic Republic of Iran Revolutionary Guard Navy, "maneuvered aggressively in close proximity of the Hopper," the Navy said in a posting on its Web site.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon released a videotape shot from the bridge of the USS Hopper showing five fast boats racing back and forth near the convoy. Video Watch the U.S. Navy video of the incident »

On the tape, an unidentified Navy crew member says over the radio: "This is coalition warship. I am engaged in transit passage in accordance with international law. I intend no harm. Over."

The boats continue to race through the water even as the U.S. warship repeatedly sounds its horns.

"I am coming to you," a deep, accented voice says in English over the radio.

An unidentified sailor aboard the Hopper asks the boats to identify themselves and steer clear.

The same deep voice says, "You will explode in a few minutes."

It was not clear, however, that the threat was coming from anyone aboard the boats, Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, the 5th Fleet spokeswoman in Bahrain, told CNN. It could have been sent from another ship in the area or from someone on shore, she said.

Iranian officials accused the Pentagon of forging the video it released and said the United States timed the release to coincide with the eve of President Bush's trip to the Middle East.

Speaking on Wednesday in Jerusalem, Bush warned of "serious consequences" if Iran decided to attack U.S. ships.

Hadley called it a provocation and warned Iran "to be on notice that they are fishing in troubled waters here."

Robertson said estimates from sailors aboard the warships of the boats' nearest proximity to the U.S. vessels range from 200 yards to 500 yards. She called the fast boats' actions "unsafe, unnecessary and unprofessional."


Although the video does not show it, at least one of the boats dropped five or six objects that looked like boxes into the water, where they floated, she said.

The U.S. naval commanders did not pick them up "because they did not know what they were," she said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Barbara Staff contributed to this report.

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