The World : U.S. Hardens Ship Stand

The Navy will offer new protection to U.S. merchant ships facing Iranian searches on the high seas and would probably use force to repel boarders if requested to do so by ship captains, a Pentagon official said. That position marked a hardening of the U.S. response to the Iranian navy's boarding and searching Sunday of an American cargo ship. However, the State Department repeated its position that the search was apparently legal. "The policy is generally that if the captain of the (merchant) ship has a request from one of the belligerents for boarding and inspection, he may agree to that, or ask for assistance from our Navy," the Pentagon official said.

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