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Iran to hold new naval drill near Strait of Hormuz

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TEHRAN (AP): Iran is planning new military exercises near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, according to a naval commander, after threatening to close the strait and completing another set of maneuvers.

One sixth of the world's oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's threat to close the passage if the West imposes sanctions on its own oil exports unsettled an already nervous world oil market.

The semiofficial Fars news agency late Thursday quoted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's naval commander, Adm. Ali Fadavi, as saying that the upcoming exercise would be the seventh staging of an annual drill called "The Great Prophet." Fadavi said the next round of war games would be "different" from previous ones.

He did not elaborate.

The admiral said the drill would take place in the Iranian month of Bahman, which roughly corresponds to February.

The Guards, Iran's most powerful military force, have the same air, naval and ground branches as the regular military.

They are also in charge of Iran's missile programme.

Iran's navy ended a 10-day drill Tuesday in the waters off the Strait.

Military officers said the purpose was to show off Iran's prowess and defense capabilities.

The drill, including widely publicized missile tests, was carried out as international criticism mounts over Tehran's nuclear program.

The West believes the programme is aimed at developing atomic weapons. Iran denies that, insisting that it is for peaceful purposes.

The US has recently tightened sanctions on Iran, banning transaction with Iran's central bank. That could cripple Iranian oil sales by limiting financial transactions.

Iran threatened to close the strait if the West tried to limit or stop Iran's own oil exports, which account for 80 percent of the country's public revenues.

The country regularly conducts maneuvers and has also been active in fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

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