WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iranian ships are moving northeast away from Yemen, a U.S. official said on Thursday after a convoy of Iranian cargo ships prompted U.S. concerns that Tehran was sending weapons into the region.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the move a “promising sign” but said the United States would continue to monitor to see if the ships’ course continued.
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the U.S. government had warned Iran not to send weapons to Yemen that could be used to threaten shipping traffic in the Gulf.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States was concerned the ships carried advanced weapons and called on Iran to avoid “fanning the flames” of the conflict with arms deliveries.
U.S. officials have said the flotilla of nine slow-moving Iranian cargo vessels was in the area of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, south of Oman and still east of the Yemeni border.
Washington this week deployed additional warships off Yemen’s coast, partly in response to the Iranian convoy, and now has nine warships in the region.
The carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its accompanying cruiser are about 200 miles (320 km) from the Iranian vessels and have been monitoring activities of the flotilla from the air.
Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bill Trott