TEHRAN - Iran threatened on Tuesday to take action if the US Navy moves
an aircraft carrier into the Gulf, Tehran's most aggressive statement
yet after weeks of saber-rattling as new US and EU financial sanctions
take a toll on its economy.
The prospect of sanctions targeting
the oil sector in a serious way for the first time has hit Iran's rial
currency, which has fallen by 40 percent against the dollar in the past
'Iran ready to renew nuclear talks with powers'
Queues formed at banks and some currency exchange offices shut their
doors as Iranians scrambled to buy dollars to protect their savings from
the currency's fall.
Army chief Ataollah Salehi said the United States had moved an aircraft
carrier out of the Gulf from because of Iran's naval exercises, and Iran
would take action if the ship returned.
did not name the carrier, but the USS John C Stennis leads a task force
in the region, and the US Navy's 5th Fleet website pictured it in the
Arabian Sea last week.
"Iran will not repeat its warning ... the
enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I
recommend and emphasize to the American carrier not to return to the
Persian Gulf," army chief Salehi said.
"I advise, recommend and
warn them over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we
are not in the habit of warning more than once."
Lieutenant Rebecca Rebarich, spokeswoman for the US 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said she was not immediately able to respond.Western sanctions could seriously effect Iran's oil trade
threat comes at a time when sanctions are having an unprecedented
impact on its economy, and the country faces political uncertainty with
an election in March, its first since a 2009 vote that triggered
The West has imposed the increasingly
tight sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is
strictly peaceful but Western countries believe aims to build an atomic
After years of sanctions that had little impact, the latest
measures are the first that could have a serious effect on Iran's oil
trade, 60 percent of its economy.
New sanctions signed into law
US President Barack Obama on New Year's Eve would cut off any financial
institutions that work with Iran's central bank from the US financial
system, blocking the main path for payments for Iranian oil.The EU is expected to impose new sanctions
by the end of this month, possibly including a ban on oil imports.
Iran's top trading partner China - which has refused to back new global
sanctions against Iran - is demanding discounts to buy Iranian oil as
Tehran's options narrow. Beijing has cut its imports of Iranian crude by
more than half for January and, paying premiums for crude from Russia
and Vietnam to replace it.