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Iran Holds Naval War Games In Strategic Waterway

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran said it has begun six days of naval war games in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic transport route for global oil supplies that the Islamic republic has threatened to close if it is attacked.

Iran often stages exercises or tests weapons to show its determination to counter any attack by the United States or Israel against sites they believe are to make nuclear arms.

"The aim of this maneuver is to increase the level of readiness of Iran's naval forces and also to test and to use domestically made naval weaponry," Admiral Qasem Rostamabadi told state radio.

The radio said the naval maneuvers would cover an area of 130,000 square kilometers, including the Sea of Oman off Iran's southern coast.

"In this six-day-long maneuver there will be more than 60 combat vessel units," Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, commander of the navy, was quoted as saying by the "Kayhan" daily.

They would include destroyers, missile-equipped battleships, submarines, special-operations teams, helicopters, and fighter planes, he said.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude oil producer, says its uranium-enrichment activities are aimed at making fuel for electricity-generating nuclear power plants, not bombs.

The United States says it wants diplomacy to end the nuclear row, but neither Washington nor Israel have ruled out military action if that fails. Iran has vowed to retaliate if pushed.

Military analysts say Iran's real ability to respond could be with more unconventional tactics, such as deploying small hit-and-run craft to attack oil tankers, or using allies in the Middle East to strike at U.S. or Israeli interests.

Iran has previously said it could close the Strait of Hormuz to shipping, through which about 40 percent of the world's globally traded oil passes. The United States has pledged to protect shipping routes.

An Iranian naval commander was last week quoted as saying the country's navy could strike an enemy well beyond its shores and as far away as Bab al-Mandab, the southern entrance to the Red Sea that leads to the Suez Canal.