Iran calls rescue humanitarian gesture

Jan. 7, 2012 at 11:11 PM

TEHRAN, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called the U.S. Navy's rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen from Somalia pirates a humanitarian gesture.

But Salehi said the rescue would not affect U.S.-Iran relations and noted his country has rescued foreign sailors from pirates, the BBC reported.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency brushed aside the Thursday rescue in the Arabian Sea, saying it was "like a Hollywood film" that "seems to have been pre-organized."

The U.S. Navy said Friday military personnel from the destroyer USS Kidd boarded the Iranian fishing vessel, the Al Molai, and detained 15 pirates who had been holding the Iranians hostage.

The fishermen, whose vessel had been under pirate control more than a month, expressed gratitude to the U.S. forces. A reporter from The New York Times who boarded the captured vessel quoted one fisherman as saying, "It is like you were sent by God."

The Navy destroyer had been escorting the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis days after Iran warned U.S. warships not to return to the Persian Gulf.

U.S. officials say the aircraft carriers will continue operating in the gulf, as they have routinely, Voice of America reported.

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