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Iran denies it fired rockets near US warships

Posted at 4:28 AM, Dec 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-31 07:28:29-05

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Thursday denied U.S. accusations of launching a provocative rocket test last week near Western warships in the Strait of Hormuz, dismissing the claim as "psychological warfare" against the Islamic Republic.

Gen. Ramezan Sharif, a Revolutionary Guard spokesman, said his forces didn't carry out any drills in the key Persian Gulf waterway.

The denial came a day after Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said Guard vessels fired several unguided rockets about 1,370 meters (1,500 yards) from USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and other Western warships and commercial traffic last Saturday. The firing came after Iranians announced over maritime radio 23 minutes earlier that they'd be carrying out a live fire exercise, according to Raines.

"The Guard's Navy had no drills in the vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz and didn't fire missiles or rockets during the past week and the time claimed by the Americans," Sharif said in comments posted on the Guard's website. "Publication of such false news under the present circumstances is more of a psychological warfare."

The strategic waterway, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes, has been the scene of past confrontations between America and Iran, including a one-day naval battle in 1988.

Raines said while the rockets weren't fired in the direction of any ships, Iran's "actions were highly provocative" because firing so close to coalition ships and commercial traffic in international waters is "unsafe, unprofessional and inconsistent with international maritime law."

Sharif said the security of the strategic Persian Gulf remains among Iran's top priorities.