Iran Plans More Military Drills in Gulf Amid Tensions With U.S.

Defense Minister says Iran planned to hold more military exercises after a 10-day drill in the Persian Gulf after warning the U.S. not to continue deployment of its navy in the region.

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Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Wednesday that Iran planned to hold more military exercises after a 10-day drill in the Persian Gulf raised tensions with the United States.

"The maneuver of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards would be held soon," the ISNA news agency quoted Vahidi as saying after the weekly cabinet meeting. He gave no further details.

Iranian navy fires a Mehrab missile during the "Velayat-90" naval wargames in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on January 1, 2012.Credit: AFP

The Iranian navy carried out drills near the Strait of Hormuz last week after it threatened to block the strait, where some 35 per cent of the world's seaborne oil passes, if the West imposed new sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.

The United States on Saturday approved sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector, the government's main source of income, and the European Union will consider similar measures later this month. Iran denies western claims that its nuclear program has a military dimension.

The United States has dismissed a warning by Iran not to return a US aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. The aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis left the Gulf on December 27 and a Pentagon spokesman said it would return.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on Tuesday played down both the impact of the sanctions, under which the United States can punish firm who buy Iranian oil through the country's central bank.

Vahidi said Iran has always played a major role in maintaining the security of the Strait of Hormuz. "The Americans just want to exaggerate (as negative) whatever Iran does with the aim of selling more warfare to the regional states," Vahdi said, referring to new US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Iranian army chief Attaollah Salehi told the official news agency IRNA that the navy drill was meant to convey two messages: "To our friends, the message was peace and friendship and to our enemies, the message was 'learn to fear us.'"

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