Iranian state TV said the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) would begin large scale military maneuvers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a move likely to heighten tension at a time when the West is at a deepening standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.
The TV report yesterday quoted IRGC deputy chief Hossein Salami as saying the war games in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz were designed to “safeguard security” in the region.
Salami said the three-day war games, expected to begin today, would also seek to demonstrate Iran’s role in a waterway through which some 40 percent of the world oil and energy supply passes.
Iran had in the past threatened to close the strait if attacked.
Meanwhile, Iran’s atomic chief said yesterday the sites for building new uranium enrichment plants had yet to be finalized, denying reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already approved the locations.
“The designs for the first new nuclear [enrichment] site will be done this year,” Ali Akbar Salehi told ILNA news agency.
“The location of this nuclear site has not yet been finalized. After the president’s approval, a decision will be made in this regard,” he said.
On Monday, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, a senior adviser to Ahmadinejad, said the president had “approved the locations of the new nuclear sites” and the “construction at these sites will start with his order.”
However, Hashemi also said the designs of the new plants were under study.
In November, a defiant Ahmadinejad announced Iran would build 10 new uranium enrichment plants after Tehran was censured by the UN nuclear watchdog for having built a second such facility near the Shiite shrine city of Qom.
Salehi said this month that plans for two new enrichment plants had been submitted to Ahmadinejad and their construction would start in the first half of the Iranian year, which runs to March next year.
Iran enriches uranium at the central city of Natanz. The UN nuclear watchdog’s February report saif it has installed 8,610 centrifuges at the plant.