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US Admiral Says Iran May Use Boats For Suicide Mission

Iran is believed to have built boats for use in suicide missions around the Strait of Hormuz shipping channel, but the U.S. Navy can thwart any such attempt, says Vice-Admiral Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. naval forces in the region.

"They have increased the number of submarines ... they increased the number of fast attack craft. Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device, Fox told media persons on Sunday. According to him, the Iranians have a large "mine inventory."

Fox, who heads the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet, said at a briefing that "we have watched with interest their development of long range rockets and short, medium and long range ballistic missiles and of course ... the development of their nuclear program." Iran is also believed to have ten small submarines.

Replying to a question, he said the U.S. Navy was very vigilant against any attack and "we have built a wide range of options to give the President and we are ready."

Fox was of the view that diplomacy should be given priority in resolving tension in the region. "So when you hear discussion about all this overheated rhetoric from Iran we really believe that the best way to handle this is with diplomacy... I am absolutely convinced that is the way to go. It is our job to be prepared. We are vigilant."

Iranian political as well as military leaders had repeatedly threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposed fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic aimed at crippling its oil industry, the main source of its revenue. Iran had also made it clear that sanctions would not deter it from its nuclear program which the West suspects is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran consistently denies.

The U.S. and the European Union last month put embargo on Iran's oil industry and transactions by its Central Bank whose full impact could be felt only by July.

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