Iran army chief warns of shutting Gulf oil lane

Iran’s army chief warned on Saturday that the Islamic republic would shut the Strait of Hormuz which controls Gulf oil exports if its interests were threatened, the Fars news agency reported.

“All the countries should know that if Iran’s interests in the region are ignored, it is natural that we will not allow others to use it [the strait],” General Hassan Firouzabadi was quoted as saying.

However, Iran’s armed forces joint chief of staff stressed his country’s priority was that the Strait of Hormuz remain open.

Speculation has been on the rise that Israel could be planning a military strike against Iranian nuclear sites, using force to halt Tehran’s controversial atomic activities.

The chief of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards militia, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, meanwhile, warned that his forces would use “blitzkrieg tactics” in the Gulf if his country came under attack.

“The Guards are equipped with the most advanced missiles that can strike the enemies’ vessels and naval equipment with fatal blows,” Fars quoted the Guards chief as saying.

In case of attack, “blitzkrieg tactics and operations of the Guards’ boats will not leave a chance for the enemies to run away”.

“These words do not mean that the prerequisites of war are being set but these are the strategies that our alert armed forces have prepared for any hypothesis,” he added.

The commander of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, Vice-Admiral Kevin J Cosgriff, said last week that his forces would not allow Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz.

The strait between Iran and Oman is a vital conduit for energy supplies, with as much as 40% of the world’s crude passing through the waterway.

US President George Bush has not ruled out using force in the nuclear stand-off between Iran and the West, but emphasised that he preferred a diplomatic solution.

Iran insists its atomic drive is peaceful, but Western powers fear Tehran is using the programme to develop nuclear weapons. - AFP

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