Iran Military Leader Says U.S. Carrier Should Not Return to Gulf Base

Published January 03, 2012

| Associated Press

Iran's army chief has warned an American aircraft carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf.

Gen. Ataollah Salehi spoke as a 10-day Iranian naval exercise ended Tuesday. The drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz was Iran's latest show of strength in the face of mounting international criticism over its nuclear program.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Salehi as saying: "We recommend ... to the American warship that passed through the Strait of Hormuz and went on to the Gulf of Oman, not to return to the Persian Gulf."

Motives behind Salehi's statement were not immediately clear.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet has said that USS John C. Stennis and another vessel headed out from the Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz last Tuesday, after a visit to Dubai's Jebel Ali port.

The USS John C. Stennis is one of the U.S. navy's largest vessels. Last week, it passed through the Strait of Hormuz traveling east across the Gulf of Oman in what the US Defense Department called a "routine" passage, AFP reported.

On Tuesday, Iran ended 10 days of military exercises at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. The exercises saw Iran test-fire three missiles designed to sink warships.

The U.S. keeps at least one aircraft carrier in or near the Gulf at all times, on rotations of weeks or months. It maintains the base of its Fifth Fleet in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

The U.S. has warned it will not tolerate a closure of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has said it has no intention of closing the strait, but has carried out "mock" exercises on shutting it.

Earlier Tuesday, French foreign minister Alain Juppe said Iran was continuing to develop nuclear weapons and called for stronger sanctions against Tehran.

"Iran is pursuing the development of its nuclear arms, I have no doubt about it," he told French television I-Tele. "The last report by the International Atomic Energy Agency is quite explicit on this point."

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