Iran test-fired long-range missiles yesterday during a naval exercise in the Persian Gulf, the semi-official Fars news agency said, following a threat by Tehran to close shipping lanes if the West imposes sanctions on its oil exports.
However, another Iranian news agency also reported that Tehran’s nuclear negotiator would write to the EU offering to resume nuclear talks with major powers.
The 10-day naval drill in the Gulf began last week as Iran showed its resolve to counter any attack by enemies such as Israel or the US.
“Iran test-fired missiles including long range [missiles], surface to sea, ... in the Persian Gulf,” Fars said yesterday.
Tehran threatened on Tuesday to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if it became the target of an oil embargo over its nuclear ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with countries dependent on Gulf oil.
Tensions with the West have risen since the UN nuclear watchdog reported on Nov. 8 that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran denies this and says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity to meet growing domestic demand.
The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted a senior official as saying that nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili would write to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to express Tehran’s readiness for fresh nuclear talks with major powers.
“Jalili will soon send a letter to Catherine Ashton over the format of negotiations ... then fresh talks will take place with major powers,” Iran’s ambassador to Germany Alireza Sheikh Attar said.
Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany (P5+1) — stalled in January last year
The EU is considering a ban — already in place in the US — on imports of Iranian oil, although diplomats and traders say awareness is growing in the EU that such a ban could damage the bloc’s economy without doing much to hurt Iran.
Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said imposing sanctions on Iran’s oil exports would lead to a leap in crude oil prices.
“Undoubtedly the price of crude will increase dramatically if sanctions are imposed on our oil ... It will reach at least over US$200 per barrel,” the Aseman weekly quoted Qasemi yesterday as saying.
During military drills in 2009, Iran test-fired its surface-to-surface Shahab-3 missile, said to be capable of reaching Israel and US bases in the Middle East.
Washington has expressed concern about Tehran’s missiles, which include the Shahab-3 strategic intermediate range ballistic missile with a range of up to 1,000km, the Ghadr-1 with an estimated 1,600km range and a Shahab-3 variant known as Sajjil-2 with a range of 2,400km.
Iranian media have said the latest naval exercise differed from previous ones in terms of “the vastness of the area of action and the military equipment and tactics that are being employed.”