TEHRAN Iran said on Sunday a "disastrous situation" facing the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with Washington's domestic issues made any U.S. attack on the Islamic Republic unlikely.
The Foreign Ministry comments came two days after the U.S. Navy said a cargo ship hired by the U.S. military fired warning shots at approaching boats in the Gulf, underscoring tension in an area vital to world oil shipments, and driving up crude prices.
"We think it would be unlikely the Americans would take the decision to get themselves into a new fiasco, the consequences of which they themselves have acknowledged would be painful for the region and the world," spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
"We hope those who think better in America view the realities more closely and manage to correct such approaches," he told a news conference.
Relations between Washington and Tehran, which have not had diplomatic ties for nearly three decades, are tense over Iran's nuclear programme and over who is to blame for violence in Iraq.
Hostile rhetoric between the two foes and close encounters in the Gulf have fuelled some speculation the United States may be planning some sort of military action against Tehran.
However, a U.S. intelligence report in December that said Iran halted a nuclear weapons programme in 2003 made any U.S. attack very unlikely, analysts say. Iran denies ever having ambitions to build nuclear weapons.
Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said another Middle East war would be "disastrous on a number of levels".
But he added the military option must be kept on the table "given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat -- either directly or through proliferation."
But Hosseini dismissed the likelihood of any U.S. military strike "in view of the numerous problems the Americans are facing, along with the disastrous situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and (their) domestic problems."
He did not specify what domestic U.S. problems he was referring to but the Bush administration is facing low approval ratings and an economic downturn during its last year in office.
U.S. defence officials first said they suspected the approaching vessels in Thursday's incident were Iranian, but a navy spokeswoman later backed away from that charge. Iran denied any confrontation took place in the Gulf.
In January, the United States said five small Iranian speed boats aggressively approached three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical crude oil shipping route. Iran said its boats were simply trying to identify the U.S. vessels.
(Reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Myra MacDonald)