DUBAI Just over half of Iran's parliament has backed a draft law to block the Strait of Hormuz, a lawmaker said on Friday, threatening to close the Gulf to oil tankers in retaliation against European sanctions on Iranian crude.
The assembly has little say in defense and foreign policy, where Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word, but the law would lend political support to any decision to close the strait - a threat that Iran's foreign minister recently played down.
Lawmaker Javad Karimi Qodoosi said 150 of parliament's 290 members had signed the bill, describing the strait as "the world's lock" to which Iran holds the key.
"If the sanctions continue, the countries that have imposed sanctions have no right to cross the Strait of Hormuz without harm," the Iranian Students' News Agency quoted Qodoosi as saying.
A heavy Western naval presence in the Gulf and surrounding area is a big impediment to any attempt to block the vital shipping route through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports passes. Qodoosi dismissed this obstacle.
"From a military standpoint, the power to close the Strait of Hormuz is 100 percent there ... if we close the Strait of Hormuz, no country will be able to open it".
Iranian threats to close the shipping channel have multiplied in response to sanctions placed on its crude exports by Western powers. The European Union banned imports from July 1 and non-EU Turkey has slashed purchases.
The sanctions were imposed over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at creating an atomic weapon and Tehran says is for peaceful energy purposes.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told Reuters earlier this month Iran was unlikely to follow through on the treat to close the strait.
"Probably those who have suggested this idea have in mind that if Iran is denied access to the Persian Gulf for whatever reason ... then Iran will probably react appropriately ... But I don't think such a time will ever come," he said.
(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)