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Sat Jan 21, 2012, 01:40 PM

After Threats, Iran Plays Down U.S. Naval Moves [View all]

By Robin Pomeroy and Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN | Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:58am EST

(Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Saturday it considered the likely return of U.S. warships to the Gulf part of routine activity, backing away from previous warnings to Washington not to re-enter the area.

The statement may be seen as an effort to reduce tensions after Washington said it would respond if Iran made good on a threat to block the Strait of Hormuz - the vital shipping lane for oil exports from the Gulf.

"U.S. warships and military forces have been in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East region for many years and their decision in relation to the dispatch of a new warship is not a new issue and it should be interpreted as part of their permanent presence," Revolutionary Guard Deputy Commander Hossein Salami told the official IRNA news agency.

The apparently conciliatory comments may be a response to the European Union and Washington's rejection of Iran's declaration it was close to resuming negotiations with world powers and with the Pentagon saying it did not expect any challenge to its warships.

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http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/21/us-iran-usa-idUSTRE80K0AQ20120121

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