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U.S., France Warn Iran On Hormuz Shipping Rights

Iranian Navy commander Habibolah Sayyari holds a news conference in Tehran last week.

Iranian Navy commander Habibolah Sayyari holds a news conference in Tehran last week.

U.S. and French officials have responded to a threat from Iran to stop oil moving through one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and a particularly key transit route for Mideast oil, the Strait of Hormuz.

The statements came after Tehran threatened to stop oil moving through the strategic shipping lane.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on December 28 that the Strait of Hormuz was an international strait and "therefore all ships, no matter what flag they fly, have the right of transit passage."

The Pentagon later warned that it would not "tolerate" any disruptions along the Strait of Hormuz. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet said the U.S. Navy had a "robust presence" in the region to safeguard its "vital links to the international community."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing on December 29 that "China hopes that peace and stability can be maintained in the strait" of Hormuz.

Iran Threat

On December 27, Iran's first vice president, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, warned that Iran would block the flow of crude through the strait if foreign sanctions were imposed on Tehran's oil exports over its nuclear program.

The next day, Iran's top naval commander, Habibollah Sayyari, said closing the strait would be "easier than drinking a glass of water" for Iran if Tehran deemed it necessary

About one-third of all seaborne oil in 2009 is estimated to have been shipped through the strait, which links the Persian Gulf with the open ocean.

The exchange of comments came as Iran was midway through 10 days of navy exercises in international waters to the east of the strait.

Tensions over Iran's nuclear program have increased since the UN nuclear watchdog reported last month that Tehran appears to have worked on designing a nuclear bomb.

Iran strongly rejects the charges and says it's developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Four rounds of UN sanctions have been aimed at persuading Iran's leadership to abandon its most objectionable nuclear activities, some of which Western governments have long argued are aimed at achieving a weapon-making capability.

compiled from agency reports

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