Iran threatens to close key strait amid US sanctions

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The United States will not be able to stop Iran exporting its oil and any move to prevent Iranian crude shipments passing through the Gulf would lead to all oil exports through the waterway being blocked, Iran's president said yesterday. President Hassan Rouhani's call to close the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea, came after the U.S. sanctions. The strait at the mouth of the Persian Gulf is crucial to global energy supplies.

The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran and U.S. officials say they aim to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero in a bid to curb the Islamic Republic's missile program and regional influence.

"America should know that we are selling our oil and will continue to sell our oil and they are not able to stop our oil exports," President Rouhani said in a televised speech during a trip to the northern Iranian city of Shahroud. "If one day they want to prevent the export of Iran's oil, then no oil will be exported from the Persian Gulf," he added.

Rouhani has made similar threats previously, especially after President Donald Trump threatened to decrease Iran's oil export to nil. His threat was welcomed by many Iranian officials, including hard-liners such as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard's powerful Quds Force.

Tensions have risen between Iran and the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a multilateral nuclear deal in May and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri also said yesterday that U.S. sanctions were hitting vulnerable people in Iran. "When [Americans] say their target is the Iranian government and there won't be pressure on the sick, the elderly and the weak in society, it's a lie," Jahangiri said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Tehran insists its missile program is purely defensive but has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if Washington tries to strangle its exports.

At the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran's testing of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads as a violation of the agreement on Tehran's nuclear program. Iran has repeatedly said its missile program is not up for negotiation.

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