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
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