Washington, Tehran: Iran denied reports from Washington that it played a part in failed missile attacks on US naval vessels off Yemen, saying on Thursday that the claims were “false and paranoid”.

“The vague and contradictory remarks by American officials these past days are false, paranoid and inappropriate,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told the official IRNA news agency.

Washington has accused Iran-backed rebels in Yemen of firing surface-to-surface missiles at the destroyer USS Mason on at least two occasions in recent weeks.

A top US general, Joseph Votel, told a Washington think tank on Wednesday that “some of the technology that we’ve seen there are things that are associated with” Iran, though he acknowledged “it’s not totally exclusive to them.”

“I do think Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Al Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in there,” General Joseph Votel told a Washington think tank.

Votel heads the US military’s Central Command, which oversees operations across the Middle East.

His statement was the most forward-leaning so far of a US official in describing Iranian involvement in the missile attacks.

The Al Houthi missiles either fell short of their targets or were thwarted by US anti-missile defences.

The Pentagon has described two attacks so far on the Mason or other US warships.

Officials are still analysing a third possible attack on Saturday to see whether additional missiles were fired.

We “are trying to ... understand this as much as we can, so we can properly attribute what is happening, and understand how these attacks are taking place,” Votel told the Center for American Progress.

“And more importantly, how the decisions are being made to launch these attacks, so we can take action against that.”

The Pentagon has not disclosed the type of missiles the Al Houthis used, but Votel noted that “some of the technology that we’ve seen there are things that are associated with” Iran.

But “it’s not totally exclusive to them. Certainly there are others that have shore-based missiles and may be moving that in there,” he added.

Washington provides intelligence and logistics support to a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Yemeni rebels since March last year.

Washington responded to the missile fire targeting the Mason with cruise missile strikes that destroyed three radar sites controlled by the rebels on October 13.