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Iran responds to US rescue of captured fishermen

The Iranian foreign ministry thanked the United States for rescuing its sailors, but Iranian news outlets linked to the Revolutionary Guard called the move a publicity stunt.

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The rescued Iranian vessel, seen here shortly after it was cleared of Somali pirates by the US Navy on Thursday.

US Navy

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Iran's government on Saturday welcomed the U.S. Navy's rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held by pirates, calling it a positive humanitarian gesture.

U.S. officials announced Friday that the fishermen had been rescued by a U.S. Navy destroyer on Thursday, more than 40 days after their boat was commandeered by suspected Somali pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The rescue came just days after Tehran warned the U.S. to keep the same group of warships out of the Persian Gulf in a reflection of Iran's fear that American warships could try to enforce an embargo against Iranian oil exports.

"The rescue of Iranian sailors by American forces is considered a humanitarian gesture and we welcome this behavior," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by state TV's Al-Alam Arabic channel.

Iran's hard-line Fars news agency had a different take, calling the rescue operation a Hollywood dramatization of a routine event.

The Fars report noted that attacks by Somali pirates in the region are common and said that Iran's navy has itself freed many mariners held by pirates in recent years without seeking to highly publicize it.

Amid escalating tension with Iran over its nuclear program, the Obama administration reveled in delivering Friday's announcement and highlighted the fact that the rescuing ships were the same ones Iran's army chief had just said were no longer welcome in the Persian Gulf.

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