Bush calls Iran’s naval confrontation with US provocative


Washington : Iran’s naval confrontation with US warships in the Gulf was a “provocative act” that should not have taken place, US President George W. Bush said.

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“We viewed it as a provocative act. It is a dangerous situation. And they should not have done it, pure and simple,” Bush said at a White House press conference Tuesday hours before he departs for the Middle East on a trip partly aimed at isolating the Islamic state.

Five Iranian Republican Guard boats approached three US warships in the Strait of Hormuz early Sunday morning at high speed before vanishing just as the US vessels were preparing to open fire in what could have been a major escalation in tensions between the two countries.

Iran has played down the incident, saying the boats were only trying to identify the US ships and were not threatening or planning an attack.

The top US Navy commander in the region said Iranian radio communications threatened to blow up the ships, which were a destroyer, a frigate and a cruiser.

Bush is due to arrive in Tel Aviv Wednesday on the first stop of a trip taking him to the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The primary purpose of Bush’s trip is to move forward on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but he is also seeking support for curtailing Iran’s growing influence in the region. He also wants to convey the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear activities even though a US intelligence report in December said Tehran halted nuclear weapons work in 2003.

The intelligence estimate said, however, that Iran was still enriching uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council and could have enough material for a bomb within a decade.

“One of the problems we have is that the intelligence report on Iran sent a mixed signal,” Bush said, adding he was “going to remind” Arab countries that “Iran was a threat, Iran is a threat, and Iran will continue to be a threat if they are allowed to learn how to enrich uranium”.