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Strait of Hormuz: Threats exchanged, U.S. carrier tracked

December 29, 2011 | 12:08 pm

Iran-navy
Iran and the U.S. continued to trade words Thursday over an Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tanker traffic.  Meanwhile, Iran said it had tracked a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

The action by an Iranian surveillance plane showed that Iran had "control" over moves by foreign forces in the region, the Associated Press quoted from an official Islamic Republic News Agency report.

Tehran is currently holding a 10-day military exercise in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz.

MAP: Strait of Hormuz

On Wednesday, Iran's top naval commander expounded on the issue of control to the nation's English-language Press TV. Habibollah Sayyari said Iran could close the strait but did not need to do so at this time because "we have the Sea of Oman under control, and we can control the transit."

Chief Pentagon spokesman George Little said Wednesday that any interference by Iran in the strait would "not be tolerated," stressing that the region was "an economic lifeline for countries in the gulf."

Thursday morning, Iranian officials struck back. Their basic message: You can't tell us what to do.

Americans are "not in a position" to influence Iran on its decision about whether to close off the Strait of Hormuz, Hossein Salami, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander, said Thursday, according to Reuters: "Any threat will be responded by threat."

As the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday, Iran's threats are in response to the possibility of harsher economic sanctions  by the U.S. and its allies over Iran's pursuit of a nuclear program. 

The threats have been treated with skepticism by some in Washington. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it was "more rhetoric from the Iranians." 

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-- Amy Hubbard in Los Angeles

Photo: Iranian soldiers practice taking control of a naval vessel during military exercises Wednesday.  Iran started 10 days of naval drills east of the Strait of Hormuz and in the Seaof Oman on Christmas Eve. Credit: Ali Mohannadi / Agence France-Presse

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