Iran denies test-firing rockets near US carrier
Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Thursday denied its naval forces test-fired rockets close to a US aircraft carrier in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.
"The Guards' naval force had no exercise in the past week when the Americans claim that a missile or rocket was fired in the Hormuz Strait area," spokesman General Ramezan Sharif said on the Guards' official website.
The Guards naval unit is responsible for securing Iranian interests in the Strait, where it regularly patrols the area and conducts exercises.
On Tuesday, a US military official said that the Iranian navy, in an act that was described as "highly provocative", fired several rockets on 26 December within 1,500 metres of USS Truman. A French frigate and the USS Bulkeley destroyer were also in the area.
Separately on Tuesday, Navy Commander Kyle Raines, spokesman for US Central Command, told Reuters that the Iranians only gave nearby traffic 23 minutes advanced warning before firing the rockets from an attack craft in Omani waters.
"These actions were highly provocative, unsafe and unprofessional and call into question Iran's commitment to the security of a waterway vital to international commerce," Raines was quoted as saying.
Sharif accused the US of lying about the incident.
"Publishing such lies in the current situation is more a psychological operation," he said.
"The security and peace of the Gulf is of serious strategic importance to Iran. The Guards conduct exercises to increase our required preparedness at due times, based on our own schedule."
The alleged incident comes after Iran and world powers led by the US agreed a landmark deal to limit the Islamic republic's nuclear programme in exchange for lifting economic sanctions, set to end in early 2016.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Treasury Department is preparing fresh sanctions on two Iran-linked networks, including individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates, helping to develop a missile programme.
Iranian officials have warned that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei would view new sanctions as a violation of the nuclear deal.