WASHINGTON -- Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats harassed and provoked three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route off the Iranian coast, over the weekend, CNN reported on Monday.
Citing unidentified U.S. officials, CNN said the Iranian vessels came within 200 yards (meters) of the U.S. ships in international waters in the strait on Saturday, and U.S. sailors came close to opening fire.
Oil prices rose about 30 cents to over $98 a barrel after the CNN report, with traders citing increased risk of disruptions to oil shipments along the key shipping route.
U.S. military officials told CNN the boats were "attack craft" that they believed were operated by Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.
The Iranian boats made threatening maneuvers against the U.S. warships and threatening radio transmissions, the officials told CNN.
The captain of one U.S. vessel was in the process of giving the order to shoot when the Iranian ships began turning away, CNN said.
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A radio transmission from one of the Iranian ships said, "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes," CNN reported, citing a U.S. official.
After the threatening radio communication, U.S. sailors manned their ships' guns and were very close to opening fire, it said.
There was no immediate U.S. comment.
In Tehran, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman had no immediate comment when asked about the CNN report.
The incident occurred on the eve of a visit to the Middle East by U.S. President George W. Bush, who said last week that one of the aims of his trip was to counter Iran's ambitions in the region.
Washington has been engaged in a long standoff with Tehran over Iran's nuclear program.
© 2007 Reuters