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U.S. official: Iranian cargo ships turn away from Yemen

WASHINGTON -- The convoy of Iranian cargo ships that had been headed toward war-torn Yemen -- possibly with advanced weaponry for Houthi rebels -- has reversed its direction, a U.S. defense official tells CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

The official said it remains unclear where the nine-ship convoy may be headed now, whether back to Iran or toward another port.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the Iranian ships might be carrying weapons to the Houthis, but he would not say whether the U.S. would forcibly stop and board one of the Iranian ships if it entered Yemeni waters.

"We have options," he said when asked about the boardings. "We're not at that point. We're at the point of trying to get the parties back to the table."

Still, he said the U.S. is making it clear to Iran that "obviously fanning the flames or contributing to it by any party is not welcome to us."

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is moving into the waters off Yemen, joining eight other U.S. warships, including some carrying teams capable of boarding and searching other vessels.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said the carrier's deployment this week was in response to the deteriorating situation in Yemen, and its primary mission will be to insure freedom of navigation and commerce.

The Iranians would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution if they provided weapons to the Shiite Houthis, which are the target of a Saudi-led campaign to restore Yemen's ousted president.

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