Iran military says plans more drills in Strait of Hormuz soon

DUBAI, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Iran plans to hold military drills

in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil and gas shipping route, by

next March, Iranian media quoted a commander from the Islamic

Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as saying on Monday.

IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi told reporters

on Monday that the drill would be held by the end of the current

Iranian year, which ends on March 20, but gave no details on

timing or what the exercise would involve.

"By the end of the (Iranian) year we will hold an exercise

in the Strait of Hormuz and will announce the exact time soon,"

Fadavi said, according to Iranian student news agency ISNA.

Iranian officials have often said that Iran could block the

strait - through which 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil

exports pass - if it comes under military attack over its

disputed nuclear programme.

A heavy Western naval presence in the Gulf is a big

impediment to any attempt to block the waterway but both sides

have staged manoeuvres in the area this year to demonstrate

their military capabilities.

Iranian threats to block Hormuz helped put upward pressure

on oil prices in early 2012, softening the blow to Iranian

government revenues dealt by a severe reduction in crude export

volumes caused by punitive Western sanctions.

No other countries have threatened to bar the narrow

waterway between Iran and Oman, but Iranian military leaders say

their presence helps ensure the safe passage of millions of

barrels a day of oil out of the Gulf.

"The presence of the Islamic Republic in the Strait of

Hormuz as the Persian Gulf's number one power guarantees the

security of oil exports to the world," Brigadier General Yahya

Rahim-Safavi was quoted by Iran's Press TV as saying.

"We guarantee the oil exports through the Strait of Hormuz

on the condition that no military threat is issued against our

country because Asia's southeastern countries direly need the

region's oil."

Israel has threatened military action against Iran, and the

United States has not ruled it out, unless their arch-adversary

abandons nuclear activities which the West suspects are intended

to develop atomic bomb know-how.

The Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium for

peaceful energy purposes only.

(Reporting by Daniel Fineren and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by

Mark Heinrich)

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