US, EU rebuff Iran’s Hormuz passing threat

US, EU rebuff Iran’s Hormuz passing threat

US, EU rebuff Iran’s Hormuz passing threat

Iran gives its nuke drive pace during Ahmadineja’s ruling. AFP photo

The European Union has reiterated plans to impose sanctions on Iran while the United States has vowed to protect international shipping lanes after Tehran threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz in response to Western measures.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet said it would not permit any disruption of traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, which is crucial for the global oil trade. 

“Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated,” a spokesperson for the Bahrain-based fleet said.

“The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity,” Reuters quoted the spokesperson as saying.

Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, told Agence France-Presse that the EU was considering another set of sanctions against Iran despite Tehran’s threat. “We expect the decision will be taken in time for the foreign affairs council on Jan. 30,” he said, referring to the next meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. 

France called on Iranian authorities yesterday to respect international law and navigation rights.
“As with human rights and nuclear proliferation, we are calling on the Iranian authorities to respect international law and in particular the freedom to navigate in international waters and straits,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said. “The Strait of Hormuz is an international strait. Therefore all ships, no matter what flag they fly, have the right of transit passage.”

NATO officials, meanwhile, declined to comment on the matter.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned Dec. 27 that “not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz” if the West broadened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. 
Navy Adm. Habibollah Sayyari also said his country could easily close the Strait of Hormuz, the Associated Press reported; he also told state-run Press TV that the Navy was in control of the vital waterway.

More than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through the strait, which links the Gulf – and its petroleum-exporting states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – to the Indian Ocean. The United States and the 27-nation EU are considering new sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil and financial sectors but EU governments have been divided over whether to impose an embargo on Iranian crude. Oil from Iran in 2010 amounted to 5.8 percent of total EU imports, making Tehran the bloc’s fifth-largest supplier after Russia, Norway, Libya and Saudi Arabia.