(Adds quotes, changes attribution)
TEHRAN Jan 6 Iran announced plans on
Friday to hold new naval exercises in the Strait of Hormuz next
month, the latest in a series of forceful gestures in the
world's most important oil shipping lane at a time when new
sanctions threaten Tehran's exports.
Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, naval commander of the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the exercises in the Gulf and
the Strait of Hormuz in February would be different from
previous exercises, but gave no further details, according to
remarks reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.
"Today the Islamic Republic of Iran has full domination over
the region and controls all movements within it," he said.
Iran held a 10-day drill which ended on Monday in the
strait, which leads out of the Gulf and provides the main export
route for the Middle East's oil.
Iranian officials have threatened in recent weeks to block
the strait if new sanctions harm Tehran's oil exports, and this
week threatened to take action if the United States sails an
aircraft carrier through it.
The United States, which has a massive naval fleet in the
area that is overwhelmingly more powerful than Iran's sea
forces, says it will ensure the strait stays open. Britain said
on Thursday that any attempt to close it would be illegal and
New financial sanctions signed into law by U.S. President
Barack Obama on New Year's Eve make it difficult for most
countries to buy Iranian oil. The European Union is expected to
announce tough measures of its own at the end of the month.
Most traders believe Iran will still be able to find markets
for its 2.6 million barrels of oil per day, but will have to
offer steep discounts that reduce the hard currency revenue it
needs to feed its 74 million people.
Washington and its allies are imposing the measures to force
Iran to abandon a nuclear programme which they say is aimed at
producing an atomic bomb. Iran says the programme is peaceful.
(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Writing by Robin Pomeroy)