Saturday Dec 03, 201101:20 PM GMT
Persian Gulf redline for US: Panetta
Sat Dec 3, 2011 1:6PM
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US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says any disruption in maritime transportation in the Persian Gulf would be crossing a redline for Washington.

During the opening session at the 2011 Saban Forum on Friday, Panetta said attacking Iran would likely prompt the Islamic Republic to retaliate against American ships and military bases in Middle East countries.

The Saban Forum is an annual gathering of US and Israeli officials and policymakers.

Referring to allegations made against Iran in the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Panetta described Iran as a “very grave threat to all of us.”

The remarks come as the US plans to spend USD 700 billion on upgrading and modernizing its nuclear weapons program, and has announced that it will not destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons before the final deadline required by the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2012.

The US official went on to say that resorting to military force against Iran also could have severe consequences for economies around the world, and could increase regional support for Iran.

Iran has warned that if its national interests are jeopardized, the Islamic Republic will not hesitate in closing the Strait of Hormuz. The strategic oil passage between Iran and Oman connects the Persian Gulf with the Sea of Oman.

The United States and Israel have repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike, based on the allegation that Iran's nuclear program may consist of a covert military agenda.

Iranian officials have promised a crushing response to any military strike against the country, warning that any such measure could result in a war that would spread beyond the Middle East.

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