A US aircraft carrier entered a zone near the Strait of Hormuz being used by the Iranian navy for wargames, an Iranian official said on Thursday amid rising tensions over the key oil-transit channel.
"A US aircraft carrier was spotted inside the manoeuvre zone... by a navy reconnaissance aircraft," Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi, the spokesman for the Iranian exercises, told the official IRNA news agency. The Iranian aircraft took video and photos of the US vessel, he added. The US aircraft carrier was believed to the USS John C. Stennis, one of the US navy's biggest warships.
US officials announced that the ship and its accompanying battle group moved through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow stretch at the entrance to the Gulf that is the world's most important choke point for oil shipments. After warnings from the Iranian government and navy this week that Iran could close the strait if threatened by further Western sanctions, the US defence department warned that such actions "will not be tolerated."
"This is not just an important issue for security and stability in the region, but is an economic lifeline for countries in the Gulf, to include Iran," Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters here.
About 40 per cent of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz which links the Gulf - and the oil-producing states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - to the Indian Ocean.