Iran denies oil spill plan to block vital Strait of Hormuz
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has denied accusations that its revolutionary armed forces (IRGC) are planning an environmental disaster in the Strait of Hormuz and use it to have international sanctions against it lifted, local media reported on Wednesday.
The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday it had evidence of a plan by IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari to cause an oil spill to block crude exports through the Strait crucial to the global economy.
The report gave no source but said the aim was to "punish" oil-exporting Gulf Arab states hostile to Iran and force the West to request Iranian help in the cleanup, opening the way to a suspension of financial and trade sanctions against it.
Der Spiegel, whose report was unsourced, said: "A decontamination would only be possible with technical help from the Iranian authorities and for this the embargo would have to be at least temporarily lifted."
"These words show that Western nations have been brought low and have resorted to making any allegation against us," Mohammed Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's Basij militia, was quoted by local media website Raad News as saying.
"The Persian Gulf is a part of the waters and territory of Iran and polluting it would also affect us," he added.
Naqdi's comments also appeared on the official website of the Basij, Iran's civil defense militia which takes its orders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The United States and its allies have imposed harsh sanctions on Iran's oil and banking sectors since the beginning of the year over an Iranian nuclear program they believe is covertly directed towards developing a weapons capability.
Iran denies this and has repeatedly emphasized that it has the right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy activities under its membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Around 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports pass out of the Gulf via the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has previously threatened to disrupt or close the waterway if its nuclear sites are subjected to military attack by Israel or the United States.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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