By NASSER KARIMI -- The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran -- A top Iranian naval commander said Monday that Tehran's forces have full control over the Gulf's strategic Strait of Hormuz, but have no plans to try to close the route for one-fifth of the world's oil.
The comments by Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri, acting commander of the Revolutionary Guard naval forces, appear designed to reinforce Iran's claims of military dominance over the Strait as U.S. naval forces boost their presence in the Gulf.
"Enemies regularly say Iran is after closing the Strait of Hormuz. But we say that wisdom does not recommend closing the strait while Iran is using the Strait of Hormuz," Tangsiri was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
He did not elaborate, but the remarks appear to point to Iran's efforts to build pipelines to Asian markets and develop other Iranian ports with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
Tangsiri's message also is seen as an effort to reassure world oil markets that Iran – which was OPEC's second-largest producer before recent sanctions – will not disrupt supplies. Oil prices have been swayed by worries that Iran could choke off tanker traffic in retaliation for tighter sanctions over its nuclear program.
Iran has issued threats to close the strait for several months, but has made no attempts to block tanker traffic. Iran's warnings have increased this month after a boycott of Iranian oil by the 27-nation European Union, which has sharply cut into Iran's oil sales.
Last week, a group of Iranian lawmakers backed proposals that would push government to close the waterway. Yet, Iran's parliament has not taken any action on the case and it's unclear whether lawmakers could force such a military move on the strait, which is jointly controlled by Iran and Oman.
The West suspects Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. Iran says it only seeks reactors for peaceful purposes such as power generation and medical treatment.