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Still tension between Iran and the United States

· With the Naval exercises in the Persian Gulf completed, Tehran asks the EU the date and place for the nuclear meeting ·

Tension remains high in the Persian Gulf, where, in the last ten days of the Iranian naval military exercises in the surrounding waters the Strait of Hormuz, Tehran has made it known that two cruise missiles, one medium and one short range, were launched successfully. These missiles are capable of reaching at a range of 200 kilometres.

It is not the intercontinental missiles that most worry  Western nations, Israel and the American bases in the region, but it is the exercises that cause apprehension. France for the first time defined the tests as a “very bad signal to the international community”. The French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, recalled that Iran's development of a ballistic missile program is a source of great concern for the international community. The Strait of Hormuz is a strategic channel for petroleum traffic, 40% of all crude oil transported by sea passes through this strait, which Tehran claims could be blocked, but currently is not intending to so. The fact is, is that since 24 December this strait has been the centre of the conflict between Iran and the United States, with a series of mutual threats.

The commander-in-chief of the Iranian Army said that Iran will act if a U.S. Aircraft returns to the Persian Gulf. General Ataollah Salehi, quoted by FARS News Agency, said “I advise, recommend and warn them [the Americans] over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once”. On 29 December Iran announced that an American aircraft was identified in the zone Iranian naval military maneuvers in near the Strait of Hormuz. That same day, the spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, Rebecca Rebarich explained  that the USS  John C. Stennis aircraft and the USS Mobile Bay cruiser passed through the Strait of Hormuz as “a pre-planned, routine transit”. The two American ships had stopped in the Port of  Jebel Ali, in the United Arab Emirates, before crossing the Strait of Hormuz towards the Arabian Sea, where they were to supply air support to the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In the meantime Iran has asked the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and for Security Policy of the E.U., Catherine Ashton “to set a time and a place” for the resumption of nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the great powers, after a year-long interruption, said Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “We are waiting for a date and venue of the next meeting to be declared by (the Head of Diplomacy for the European Union) for negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group ( permanent members of the U.N. Security Council: the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, plus non-permanent member Germany)”, the spokesperson said. Mehmanparast said that when once Ashton proposes the date and time, Jalili (head Iranian negotiator) and his team of negotiators “will express their point of view and through contacts there will be a final agreement” between both sides on the talks.

The French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alain Juppé, without closing the path to negotiation, called for stricter sanctions against Tehran, after having said that he did not doubt if Iran was developing nuclear arms. “Iran is pursuing the development of its nuclear arms, I have no doubt about it”, said the head of diplomacy in Paris, to French television I-Tele, underlining the last IAEA report, the International Atomic Energy Agency, was quite “explicit”.

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