Iran's government is accusing Washington of using President Bush's Middle East tour to spread anti-Iranian sentiment in the region.

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Sunday that U.S. officials are exaggerating a recent incident in the Persian Gulf to paint Iran in a negative light.

Washington says a fleet of Iranian naval boats threatened U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz on January 6.

The Iranian spokesman dismissed the naval encounter as routine and demanded the United States apologize for its portrayal of the incident.

The commander of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, told President Bush today in Bahrain that he views the encounter "deadly seriously".

Mr. Bush said during a stop in Israel Wednesday that Iran would face "serious consequences" if it attacked U.S. ships.

Washington and Tehran have both released videos of the incident that they say back their version of events.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.