KUWAIT, AUG. 14 -- Iran sent a mine-sweeping force into the Gulf of Oman today in search of mines that it claims threaten its own shipping, as the United Arab Emirates warned that the Iranians might launch remote-control "bomb boats" in the area.

Small "booby-trapped boats operated by remote control" may be deployed in international waters outside the Strait of Hormuz, the United Arab Emirates' newspaper Al Khaleej warned commercial shippers. The government yesterday advised fishermen and swimmers to avoid "suspicious objects and small boats on the eastern coast of the country," the paper said.

In the Martyrdom naval maneuvers last week, Iranian forces rammed a remote-control speedboat loaded with explosives into a dummy "enemy target," according to official Iranian accounts.

The Iranian announcement that its Navy's helicopter-supported mine-sweeping force was operating in the Persian Gulf and beyond the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf of Oman raised already high tensions in the region because of the renewed possibility of clashes between U.S. and Iranian naval forces.

The U.S. Navy has nine ships operating in the Persian Gulf, mostly to escort reflagged Kuwaiti oil and gas tankers to and from the oil-rich emirate. Beyond the Strait of Hormuz, a rapidly growing Navy force is based around the aircraft carrier USS Constellation.

Other countries, including the United States, are convinced that Iran is behind the planting of mines in and beyond the Persian Gulf that have damaged six ships since May. Iran, however, has claimed that the United States sowed the mine that earlier this week blew a hole in the U.S.-operated, Panama-registered Texaco Caribbean, which was carrying a load of Iranian oil in the Gulf of Oman.

It was apparently to back up that charge that Iran launched its mine-clearing operations in international waters today. According to Tehran radio, it even proposed to conduct mine-sweeping operations off the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, where the Texaco Caribbean hit the mine off the port of Fujayrah.

The United Arab Emirates, which today proclaimed its waters off Fujayrah to be clear of mines after its coast guard found and defused at least five in recent days, politely declined any Iranian assistance. The emirates' Foreign Ministry said the emirates would "rely on our own resources" and thanked Iran for the offer.

The new Iranian mine-hunting operation, which is believed to be considerably smaller than last week's naval maneuvers, began as Iranian President Ali Khameini warned the United States and its allies not to "underestimate Iranian naval power," according to Tehran radio.

Speaking at traditional Friday prayers at Tehran University, Khameini said, "If our tankers in the gulf are attacked, the {military} presence of the United States or that of any other power will not prevent us from retaliating."

"Even if the United States steps up its strength in the region and wants to attack us, each blow we will give them will be more violent than the ones they will have dealt us," Khameini said.

The discovery of the mines in the midst of the normally busy anchorage off Fujayrah has set off alarm bells in international maritime capitals. Until this week, the Iran-Iraq war had been confined entirely to the Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Oman had been spared.

Fujayrah and the port of Khor Fakkan just to the north had been used as a safe staging area for commercial shipping and U.S.-escorted convoys of reflagged Kuwaiti tankers making their way to the more dangerous Persian Gulf.

The American helicopter carrier USS Guadalcanal is nearing the gulf with eight sophisticated Sea Stallion mine-sweeping helicopters aboard. This week, after the mines were found off Fujayrah, Britain and France announced that they, too, were sending mine sweepers to the gulf.

The Soviet Union already has three mine sweepers in the Persian Gulf escorting its own shipping. Saudi Arabia has at least one mine sweeper operating in the area.

Meanwhile, Iraq announced that its Air Force had struck at an Iranian Hawk antiaircraft missile battery near the northern refinery city of Tabriz. It was the second reported Iraqi air attack deep in Iranian territory in a week.