Tehran (AFP) – A defiant Iran vowed on Saturday to press ahead with its missile programme and condemned new US sanctions, as tensions rise after the West hardened its tone against the Islamic republic.
In the latest incident, Tehran and Washington accused each other’s naval forces of provocative manoeuvres in the Gulf that culminated in a US helicopter firing warning flares.
The US Navy said it had reacted to unresponsive vessels belonging to the Revolutionary Guards closing in on American ships at high speed, a charge denied by Iran which described the American move as unprovoked.
“At 4 pm (1130 GMT) on Friday, the supercarrier USS Nimitz and its accompanying warship, while being monitored by the Guards’ frigates, flew a helicopter near the Resalat oil and gas platform and approached the force’s ships,” the Iranian paramilitary force said.
“The Americans in a provocative and unprofessional move, sent a warning message to the frigates and fired flares,” it said. The Guards “ignored the unconventional move by the US ships and continued their mission”.
The US Navy said its ships were on a routine patrol when an American helicopter “observed several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels approaching US naval forces at a high rate of speed”.
“US naval forces attempted to establish communications, with no response from the Iranian vessels. Shortly thereafter, at a safe distance, the US helicopter deployed flares, after which the Iranian vessels halted their approach,” it said.
The latest incident came after a US Navy ship fired warning shots at a Guards boat in similar circumstances on Tuesday, with each side blaming the other.
There have been a string of close encounters between US ships and Iranian vessels in the Gulf in recent months.
– ‘Unacceptable’ sanctions –
On the political front, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said Tehran condemned new US sanctions against its missile programme, which US President Donald Trump is set to sign into law, and…