Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 1 News List

US warns Tehran against trying to block Gulf oil flow

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US took new steps to isolate Iran on Tuesday, announcing a freeze on the sale of all F-14 fighter parts and warning that an attempt by Tehran to block the flow of Gulf oil could be turned against it.

US President George W. Bush reiterated in a TV interview that Washington had no plans to invade Iran, but will step up diplomatic pressure to convince it to abandon its nuclear program.

"And the best way to do so is to continue rallying other nations to join us and expressing ourselves very clear to the Iranians that `You will be isolated, that you won't be able to achieve your greatness, that you'll hurt your people economically if you continue to insist upon a nuclear weapon,'" he told ABC News.

Countering Iran has emerged as a prime objective of US policy as Washington struggles to stabilize Iraq and regain its footing in a region rife with both anti-US and sectarian tensions.

Admiral William Fallon, Bush's nominee to replace General John Abizaid as commander of US forces in the Middle East, said Iran appeared to be developing military means to deny US forces access to the oil-rich Gulf.

"But I would note this is not a one-sided game, or a one-sided situation, in that Iran is, I believe, critically dependent on its export of petroleum products for its economic vitality," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"And those exports go through the same Straits of Hormuz that they would potentially seek to deny us access to," he said.

Fallon's appointment, which the US Senate is expected to confirm, coincides with Bush's ordering a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Gulf.

The arrival of the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis would raise the US naval presence in the region to its highest level since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Fallon said Bush hadn't asked him to update war plans for Iran and said he was not aware of any such plans at the US Central Command, which is responsible for US forces in the Gulf.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, froze the sales of all spare parts for F-14 fighter aircraft because of concerns they could be transferred to Iran, which bought F-14s from the US before the 1979 Iranian revolution, a Defense Department spokeswoman said.

The Defense Logistics Agency ordered the freeze last Friday "given the current situation in Iran," said Dawn Dearden, the agency's spokesman.

The Pentagon had already suspended the sale of spare parts that either were specific to the F-14 or that could be used in other aircraft.

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