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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 unsuccessful.
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)