UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday appealed to all sides in the dispute over Iran's nuclear program to reduce tensions and urged Tehran not to follow through on threats to close a key shipping lane.
As Western states tighten sanctions on Iran and its enemies wage an apparent covert war against an Iranian nuclear program that the West suspects is intended to produce weapons, Tehran has warned several times it may seal off the Strait of Hormuz, choking the supply of Gulf oil and gas.
"There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of this," Ban told reporters in New York. "At the same time I have been urging the parties to first of all try to defuse the tension. This rhetoric is not helpful."
He urged Tehran, which denies US and European allegations that it is developing an atomic weapons capability, not to take any steps to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world's oil shipments flows each year.
"This is a very important area for international trade and commerce, the Strait of Hormuz," Ban said. "The free passage of any ships in open seas should be respected and protected."