Iranian Navy Conducts Exercises in the Strait of Hormuz
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Tehran -- - Iran will block the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the passageway through which a fifth of the world's oil flows, if its interests are seriously threatened, a senior Iranian military commander said Saturday.
"We do have a plan to close the Strait of Hormuz," state media quoted Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi as saying Saturday. "A Shiite nation (Iran) acts reasonably and would not approve interruption of a waterway ... unless our interests are seriously threatened."
The comments by Firouzabadi, the chairman of Iran's Joint Chiefs of Staff, come days after the European Union enforced a total oil embargo against Iran for its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program. The move follows sanctions already imposed against Iran by the United States and the United Nations.
The United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China are negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear program, which the West suspects aims to make a bomb.
Iran denies the charge. It says that its right to enrich is enshrined in the nuclear nonproliferation treaty - and therefore sees demands to curtail higher enrichment as contravening international law. It says it needs to enrich to that level to power a research reactor and make medical isotopes.
Israel has warned of possible air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities and the United States has said all options are on the table should negotiations fail to bring Tehran to compromise.
The halt in crude oil imports from Iran is intended to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic to stop enriching uranium to the 20 percent level.
The Western powers fear material produced at that level - well above the 3.5 percent enrichment needed for energy-producing reactors - can be turned into weapons-grade material in a matter of months.
Iranian lawmakers have prepared a bill that would order the country's military to stop tankers headed to countries that have joined the oil ban.
But Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, was quoted by Iranian media on Saturday as saying that the proposed bill has not yet been studied by parliament.
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards has warned that Tehran would order the closure of the Strait of Hormuz if the country's oil exports are blocked.