Hasan Jamali  /  AP
U.S. Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, center, listens to journalists at the U.S. Navy base in Manama, Bahrain, Monday, June 30. Cosgriff, commander of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, told journalists that any attempt by Iran to seal off the Strait of Hormuz would be viewed as an act of war.
updated 7/2/2008 8:10:29 AM ET 2008-07-02T12:10:29

The U.S. Navy and its Gulf allies will not allow Iran to seal off the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf said Wednesday.

Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the 5th Fleet, made the warning during talks with naval commanders of Gulf countries in the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi. The one-day meeting was to focus on the security of the region's maritime and trade routes and the threat of terrorism.

The 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, across the Gulf from Iran. Cosgriff said that if Iran chocked off the Strait of Hormuz, it would be "saying to the world that 40 percent of oil is now held hostage by a single country."

"We will not allow Iran to close it," he told reporters.

Cosgriff's comments follow Iranian threats that it could seal off the key passageway if there is a Western attack on Tehran. But Cosgriff said that if Iran tried to choke off Hormuz, the "international community would find its voice rapidly" against Iran.

Earlier this week, Cosgriff said in Bahrain that any such action by Iran would be viewed as an act of war.

Twenty-five million barrels of oil pass through Hormuz every day — the equivalent of about $3 billion, Cosgriff said.

Tension has been high between Iran and the West over accusations that Tehran is supporting Shiite militias in Iraq and using its nuclear program as cover for weapons development. Iran has denied both claims.

The narrow Strait of Hormuz is particularly sensitive and has been the scene of close encounters between U.S. and Iranian sailors.

In a Jan. 6 incident, five small Iranian high-speed boats charged U.S. warships and threatened to blow up the convoy. In mid-December, a U.S. ship fired a warning shot at a small Iranian boat that came too close, causing the Iranians to pull back.

Senior U.S. military officials have warned Iran about the risk of triggering an unintended conflict if its boats continue to harass American ships in the Gulf.

The British have also tangled with the Iranians in the Gulf. Last year, Iran seized 15 British sailors and marines while they were searching a merchant ship off the coast of Iraq. Iran released the Britons after almost two weeks.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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