Iran has declared its readiness to resume nuclear talks with world powers. The concession came as a senior navy commander denied state media reports that the Islamic Republic had already test-fired long-range missiles.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi declared on Saturday, December 31, that the Islamic Republic was ready to resume talks with world powers over its nuclear program.
The semi-official Mehr news agency reported that chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeid Jalili will formalize the request in a letter to the head of the six-party negotiations, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. It is unclear, however, when representatives from Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States will meet.
The concession came in the midst of increased tensions with western powers after Iran threatened to close a key oil shipping route by readying war missile tests near the entrance to the Gulf.
Iran's senior navy commander denied media reports on Saturday that long-range missiles had already been test fired in the Strait of Hormuz during a navy drill. Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran's the state television network IRIB, however, that the exercise would be carried out imminently.
"In the next days, we will test-fire all kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles," he said.
The semi-official Fars news agency, Press TV and the IRNA had earlier reported the test had taken place as part of a ten-day series of naval exercises due to end on Monday.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, twenty percent of the world's oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the Gulf, making it the "most important chokepoint" in the world. Around 14 crude oil tankers pass through the narrow strait every day, carrying 17 million barrels.
The dispute over the channel flared this week after the Iran's Vice President, Reza Rahimi warned the west "not a drop of oil" would be able to pass through the strait if more sanctions were imposed over the country's nuclear program. The US responded by saying a closure "will not be tolerated."
The United Nations have already imposed four rounds of sanctions on Tehran following fears its nuclear program is being used to develop atomic weapons, a charge Iran has denied.
The United States is also among a number of countries to have imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran's economy.
The most recent round of unilateral sanctions prompted members of the Basij militia controlled by the Revolutionary Guards to ransack the British embassy in protest.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac