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. Iran boasts its forces can control the Gulf
TEHRAN, Sept 16 (AFP) Sep 16, 2008
Iran has the power to control the Gulf as no vessel can cross the vital seaway without coming in range of its sophisticated weaponry, a top aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday.

The sabre-rattling comments from General Rahim Yahya Safavi came a day after the International Atomic Energy Agency accused Iran of stalling its investigation into the country's nuclear drive.

"Responsibility for defending the Persian Gulf has been handed over to the naval forces of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps," Yahya Safavi was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

Their missiles can cover the entire width of the Gulf and "no ship can cross it without being within range", the former commander-in-chief of the Guards told IRNA.

"Our armed forces with their defence equipment including missile, air, naval and torpedo capabilities are able to control the Strait of Hormuz."

An estimated 40 percent of the world's oil passes through the narrow channel between Iran and Oman and Iran has warned in the past it could block the waterway if it comes under attack over its nuclear programme.

The Guards are also carrying out air defence war games along with the air force of the regular army, a commander was quoted as saying by IRNA on Monday.

The Revolutionary Guards form the country's ideological army, with their own ground, navy and air forces operating in parallel with the regular armed forces. They are also responsible for Iran's most significant and advanced ballistic missiles including the Shahab-3, which has Israel and US bases in the Gulf within reach.

"The Islamic republic's armed forces including the Guards and 11 million Basij (Iran's volunteer militia) are in full readiness to defend any invasion," the former commander-in-chief of the Guards told IRNA.

Of a potential Israeli attack on Iran, Rahim Safavi said: "The Zionist regime does not have the necessary political, economic and social capabilities to wage a great war."

He also warned the US military force in the region saying they would face "serious danger" in case of war, but said he belived Washington "will definitely not get involved in a fourth front after the Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia confrontations."

Tensions over Iran's nuclear work rose again on Monday after the IAEA said Tehran was defying international demands to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that makes nuclear fuel but can be diverted to make the fissile material for an atomic bomb.

The UN nuclear watchdog complained it was making little headway in investigating allegations that Tehran has been involved in studies to make a nuclear warhead, and refused to provide access to documentation, individuals or sites which could reveal the true nature of its activities.

Tehran said the alleged weapon-related studies were based on fabricated documents and it provided the IAEA a 117-page response in May addressing some of the agency's questions.

The United States, which is spearheading moves against Iran's nuclear drive, warned that the Islamic republic could now face possible new sanctions in the wake of the IAEA report.

Iran -- already under three sets of UN sanctions -- denies Western claims it is seeking to build atomic weapons, insisting that it wants nuclear power to provide energy for a growing population.

And Alaeddin Borujerdi, a senior Iranian MP, said the IAEA should not expect Tehran to respond to "any claim" about its nuclear activities, IRNA reported.

"We do not think there should be an open space so that America can bring up a new claim every day and pass it on to the agency, expecting Iran to address any claim," said Borujerdi, who heads parliament's national security and foreign affairs commission.

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