NEW YORK - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he would welcome a "hotline" with the United States or any other way to head off conflict in the Persian Gulf.
He told a news conference Friday that there was no reason for any clashes and "any tool that can prevent clashes or potential conflict, we welcome that tool."
Ahmadinejad said "some will pretend that energy security is at risk," but if NATO, British and U.S. forces leave the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Iran will "guarantee" shipping routes and security for oil and other energy supplies.
"I don't think there is a need for any confrontation or potential clashes, but I think the long-term solution is for the foreign forces to leave the Persian Gulf," Ahmadinejad said. "There is no need in the Persian Gulf for the presence of the NATO force. Nations of the region are fully capable of establishing and providing their own security."
There is no formal proposal for such a hotline, but several U.S. military officials have mused publicly about establishing an emergency contact system to prevent misunderstandings between U.S. Navy ships and planes and an increasingly assertive Iranian military.
There have been several close calls over the past year between small, fast Iranian boats that have appeared to charge or harass U.S. vessels, and Iranian planes that zip too close to U.S. ships and planes.
Military officials say some of the Iranian ships are behaving more aggressively than the largely professional Iranian Navy, and U.S. officials suspect that many belong to the unpredictable Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Both nations claim patrol rights in the Persian Gulf.
The hotline, modeled on the old emergency contact line between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, would let a U.S. commander quickly call a senior Iranian military official for clarification of Iranian motives, or to complain.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a university audience last week that he is concerned by the lack of communication between the U.S. and Iranian militaries a breach that dates to the severing of diplomatic ties three decades ago.
"Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, U.S. officials could still talk with the Soviets," Mullen said at the University of Miami.