Iran Guards search French, Italian ships in key oil route

24th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards searched French and Italian ships during exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, a key transit route for Gulf oil, the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.

The Guards marine patrol unit searched the two vessels on Friday to verify "whether the two were following environmental regulations," IRNA quoted a Guards statement as saying.

"After it was confirmed that there was no breach of environmental regulations, they were allowed to continue on their path," the Guards said, without elaborating on the nature of the ships.

They said the search was carried out in the Strait of Hormuz where Iranian forces have been carrying out manoeuvres since Thursday.

The strait is a narrow, strategically important waterway linking the Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Nearly 40 percent of the world's oil shipments by sea pass through it.

Iranian commanders have previously warned that if they come under attack, they will hit back by blocking the waterway.

The three-day exercise, dubbed Prophet V, has involved the Guards' ground, air and naval units.

The Guards were formed by Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to defend the Islamic republic from internal and external threats.

They are one of Iran's most powerful institutions and fall under the direct command of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Khomeini as the nation's supreme leader.

© 2010 AFP

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