WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Navy personnel helped repair a stranded Iranian fishing boat on Tuesday, the Navy said, even as the two countries trade accusations about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
A U.S. military helicopter stationed on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, positioned in the Gulf, caught sight of the small Iranian fishing vessel, which was carrying nine crew members, the Navy said in a statement.
The crew of the traditional fishing vessel, or dhow, sent out a distress call after its engine overheated. Its crew were waving a cloth, the statement said.
With the Iranian crew's permission, personnel from a U.S. destroyer boarded the Iranian ship, and repaired the vessel's engine. U.S. personnel also freed a fouled propeller, the statement said.
"After ensuring the dhow was operational, and the crew was safe with sufficient amounts of food, water and fuel to continue its transit, the (U.S.) teams departed the scene and returned to their ships," the Navy statement said.
While U.S. officials say such encounters are not unusual, Tuesday's exchange occurred amid sharp tensions between Iran and the United States.
The West suspects that Iran's uranium enrichment activities are putting it closer to producing a nuclear weapon, a charge that Tehran denies.
Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow shipping lane, if Western sanctions aimed at starving Iran's nuclear program of funds stop it from selling oil.
(Reporting By Missy Ryan; Editing by Eric Walsh)