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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iran Accuses U.S. of Spying on Ships

COMBINED REPORTS


TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran accused a U.S. destroyer and a reconnaissance plane Tuesday of spying on Iranian military maneuvers in the Gulf and said it warned them to leave the area of the exercises. The U.S. Navy, however, denied that the incident took place.


Senior Iranian navy commanders, speaking on condition anonymity, said the USS Kinkaid and an S-3 reconnaissance plane withdrew from the vicinity of the war games after the warnings.


But a spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is headquartered in Bahrain, said he had "no indication that either incident occurred."


"The Kinkaid has been in port in Bahrain since Monday afternoon," said Commander Gordon Hume.


The Kinkaid is a member of the seven-ship battle group that arrived in the Gulf on Sunday. The S-3 is one of 75 aircraft operating from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, which is heading the battle group.


Tensions in the region have been high since Iran's Sept. 29 air raids against two Iranian opposition bases inside Iraq. The raids violated a "no-fly" zone patrolled by the United States and its allies. Iraq sent up two fighters in pursuit, further violating the zone.


In response, Washington ordered the Nimitz to skip a port call in Singapore and speed to the Gulf.


The Iranian exercises, code-named Piroozi 8, or "Victory 8," cover an area of 39,000 square kilometers and involve more than 100 vessels. The U.S. Navy has 15 ships in the Gulf.


Neither Iran nor the U.S. Navy have given precise locations for their warships. It is not known how far their ships are from one other.


On Monday, a Tehran newspaper warned that an accidental collision in the Gulf could spark a confrontation between the United States and Iran.


"Iranian naval exercises are covering a wide area in the Persian Gulf where the U.S. spy ships are crowding the waterway and increasing the risk of collisions. It is but natural that any collision may spark developments with dire consequences, putting the entire waterway at risk," the English-language Iran News said.


"If it happens, none but the U.S. will be responsible for the consequences," the paper said.


"It is better all around if the U.S. stops this risky game in the Persian Gulf," the paper added.


Ali-Akbar Ahmadian, the chief of the naval branch of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, on Tuesday accused the United States of waging a "psychological war" against the Islamic republic.


He warned that the US fleet in the Gulf provided a "clear target" for Iranian forces.


Ashkbus Daneh-Kar, a senior official of the Khatam al-Anbia naval base, the coordinator of naval operations in Iran, warned Tuesday that Iranian forces were also keeping a close watch on the Americans in the Gulf.


Ashkbus said U.S. warships in the Gulf had boosted their intelligence gathering operations. (AP, AFP)