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    Paris calls on Iran not to block Hormuz strait

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    The French foreign ministry called on Iran to observe international laws and refrain from blocking the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important oil routes.

    The French foreign ministry called on Iran to observe international laws and refrain from blocking the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important oil routes.

    Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi on Monday threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are imposed on Iran's oil exports. The strait accounts for one-third of the world's tanker-borne oil and 17% of all oil traded worldwide.

    "Just like in the issues of human rights and nuclear non-proliferation, we call on the Iranian authorities to observe international law, in particular the freedom of navigation in international waters and straits," French foreign ministry chief spokesman Bernard Valero said.

    The French diplomat said that the Strait of Hormuz is a part of international waters and "all vessels, no matter what flag they are flying, have the right to cross it under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas." Iran, though a signatory to the convention, has yet to ratify it.

    The Hormuz strait links oil-rich Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Its northern shore is controlled by Iran, and southern - by U.A.E. and Oman.

    French President Nicholas Sarkozy voiced a proposal to impose an embargo on Iranian oil to put additional pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear program. The issue may be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on January 30.

    Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, reiterated that the European Union still has a fresh round of sanctions on Iran on its agenda.

    "European Union is considering another set of sanctions against Iran and we continue to do that," he told AFP.

    Iran is currently carrying out ten-day Navy exercises in international waters to the east of the strait. During the exercises, the Iranian Navy will among other things train blocking the strait.

    Iran's navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told Iran's Press TV that closing the strait would be "really easy ... or as Iranians say it will be easier than drinking a glass of water."

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