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Iran warns U.S. carrier: Don't come back to gulf

By Nasser Karimi

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:17 p.m. HST, Jan 03, 2012

TEHRAN, Iran >> Iran's army chief on Tuesday warned an American aircraft carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf in Tehran's latest tough rhetoric over the strategic waterway, part of a feud with the United States over new sanctions that has sparked a jump in oil prices.

Gen. Ataollah Salehi spoke as a 10-day Iranian naval exercise ended near the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf. Iranian officials have said the drill aimed to show that Iran could close the vital oil passage, as it has threatened to do if the United States enacts strong new sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.

The strait, leading into the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea, is the only possible route for tankers transporting crude from the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf to markets. A sixth of the world's oil exports passes through it every day.

Oil prices rose to over $101 a barrel Tuesday amid concerns that rising tensions between Western powers and Iran could lead to crude supply disruptions. By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for February delivery was up $2.67 to $101.50 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The jump came a day after Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface cruise missile as part of the maneuvers, prompting Iran's navy chief to coast that the strait is "completely under our control."

Salehi's warning for the U.S. aircraft carrier not to come back seemed aimed at further depicting the strait and the Gulf as under Iran's domination, though there was little way to enforce his warning without military action. The strait is divided between Iran and Oman's territorial waters, and international law requires them to allow free passage through it.

"We recommend to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went to Gulf of Oman not to return to the Persian Gulf," Salehi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

He said Iran's enemies have understood the message of the naval exercises, saying, "We have no plan to begin any irrational act but we are ready against any threat."

The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and another vessel exited the Gulf through the Hormuz Strait a week ago, after a visit to Dubai's Jebel Ali port, according to the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The Fleet did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Salehi's warning.

Iran's sabre-rattling over the strait and the Gulf has come in response to U.S. preparations to impose tough new sanctions that would ban dealings with Iran's Central Bank. That would deeply hurt Iran's oil exports since most countries and companies use the bank to conduct purchases of Iranian crude. Iran relies on oil revenues for around 80 percent of its budget, meaning a cut-off would be devastating to its already weakening economy.

President Barack Obama has signed the sanctions into law but has not yet enacted them. The sanctions would be the strongest yet by the U.S., aimed at forcing Tehran to back of its nuclear program, which many in the West say is intended to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the claim, saying its program is peaceful.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that is country wants Europe to agree on similar sanctions against Iran by Jan. 30 to show its determination to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. He told the French television station i>TELE that there is "no doubt" that Iran is continuing with plans to build a bomb.

Iran's naval maneuvers took place over a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, as well as parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, according to Iranian officials.

A leading Iranian lawmaker said Sunday the maneuvers served as practice for closing the strait if the West enacts sanctions blocking Iranian oil sales. Top Iranian officials made the same threat last week.

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kailuabred wrote:
First thing we need to do is send the carrier back to show that international waters are free to all ships.
on January 3,2012 | 03:30AM
Honolulu01 wrote:
Plus the rest of the 5th fleet to conduct some "exercises" there.
on January 3,2012 | 05:32AM
ya_think wrote:
We should also invite the British and French to join us in those exercises, just to keep the fleets in shape.......maybe we should pull a couple of the old battleships out of retirement and send them over there also.
on January 3,2012 | 05:50AM
Steve96785 wrote:
Let's see if the spooks on board US aircraft carriers can redirect Iran's cruise missles back to their launch sites. It used to require the maximum efforts of Wild Weasle squadrons in 'Nam to lead SAMs back home, but I bet we can do the task just using electronics today.
on January 3,2012 | 05:38AM
jrboi96786 wrote:
send the damn carriers! let see how far their balls hang low. i really hope iran would do something so that we have a reason to destroy them.
on January 3,2012 | 06:08AM
BigOpu wrote:
Oooooooooo! Tough words. Do the really think that will deter an oil dependant super power?
on January 3,2012 | 07:38AM
HatchKelso wrote:
Iran rejected the President’s offer of friendship in March of 2009. They recently rejected ‘his pretty please with sugar on top’ request to return our drone. Now they are bullying and threatening our armed forces. It’s time for the President to stick to his guns and adamantly reassert his desire for friendship and diplomacy. What is he waiting for?
on January 3,2012 | 08:23AM
LizKauai wrote:
The time for peace has come.
on January 3,2012 | 09:04AM
tsboy wrote:
the time for war is here. there will be no peace with the current Iranian government. their leadership believes in a worldwide Isalmic state, not peace with the west.
on January 3,2012 | 09:53AM
cojef wrote:
A provocative challenge by a third class navy, more to impress and threaten their arab neighbors in the Middle East. Isreal could defeat the Iranian Navy easliy with their air-power and guided missiles. Many of our weaponry was initiated or conceived by the Israeli think-tank. One can say the same for their battle tactics and strategies. However, they cannot sustain or be involved in a prolonged war. Citing the foregoing, only to point out that the threats by Iran is only self serving. If the threat meant anything, they would have attacked Israel long ago.
on January 3,2012 | 10:02AM
shygorilla808 wrote:
Thank you Iran. You just gave Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard years of guaranteed work.
on January 3,2012 | 10:40AM
Oahuan wrote:
Send McMackin over to Iran. Guarans within a year or two, they'd be eating milk and cookies with their tails tucked under.
on January 3,2012 | 11:25AM
Thegame wrote:
Not scared of their toy missile launcher. It looks like a G.I. Joe toy I used to have when I was a kid.
on January 3,2012 | 07:28PM
kona1069 wrote:
Can't wait to see what happens next when the U.S. does send a carrier, which there happens to be one on its way to the Straits in a few days.
on January 3,2012 | 08:36PM
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