WASHINGTON -- President Carter says the United States and its allies will do 'whatever is required' to keep the vital Strait of Hormuz open to allow oil shipments to reach the West despite the Iran-Iraq war.
And the president said if the strait is closed and oil supplies cut off, an agreement to share oil among the allies would be triggered and voluntary and mandatory conservation measures would become necessary.
Carter made the statements in an interview with Milwaukee television station WITI. Excerpts were aired on CBS television Friday night.
The White House announced earlier that America is willing to host an international conference to discuss ways of making sure Middle East fuel shipments are not blocked by the war.
'I've been in touch with the leaders our our allied nations both in the Western world and in some of the Islamic nations directly concerned and whatever is required to keep the strait open will be done,' said Carter.
However, Western political leaders Friday denied reports that Carter had invited them to such a meeting.
If the strait is cut off, said Carter, the United States and its allies 'would all have to go to the people of our own countries to encourage both voluntary and to institute mandatory conservation measures.'
If that happens, Carter said, he would have 'no doubt ... that our country would suffer severely.'
White House press secretary Jody Powell said there is no reason to worry about shortages at this point, since oil from all countries except Iran and Iraq is still being shipped.
But many nations heavily dependent on oil moving through the Persian Gulf appear concerned the situation may deteriorate, and the White House issued a statement addressing those fears.
'We have consulted with a number of friendly nations about the status of oil supplies and international shipping in the Persian Gulf area,' the White House statement said.
'In view of the importance of minimizing the economic effects of the conflict on international shipping and world petroleum markets, the United States has indicated that it would be willing to host a meeting to review these issues if that should seem desirable.'
The statement said no meeting had been set.