A picture released by Fars News Agency on December 29, 2011, shows a U.S aircraft carrier spotted in an area of the Iranian navy ongoing maneuver zone on the Sea of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran. UPI/ Abdollah Arab Koohsar/Fars News | License Photo
MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- A day after the U.S. military warned Iran not to close off a key Persian Gulf waterway, Iran said it spotted a U.S. aircraft carrier in the area.
The country's deputy navy Commander Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi said Thursday that Iranian navy craft conducting war maneuvers in the area spotted the U.S. carrier and took photos and video footage, Press TV said.
"A U.S. aircraft was spotted inside the maneuver zone … by a navy reconnaissance aircraft," Mousavi told the official state Islamic Republic News Agency.
On Saturday, Iran announced the beginning of a 10-day war games drill that covers an area stretching from east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden.
Earlier in the week, the head of Iran's Navy, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, said the war games drill taking place in international waters conveys a message of peace and friendship to countries in the Middle East, Press TV said.
"The free flow of goods and services through the Strait of Hormuz is vital to regional and global prosperity," said U.S. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Rebecca Rebarich of the Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, Bahrain, about 100 miles from Iran's coastline.
"Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations," she said. "Any disruption will not be tolerated."
Her statement followed two days of threats by Iran to shut the strategic waterway to all oil shipments if the West imposes sanctions on Iran's oil exports.
Iranian First Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi said Tuesday, "If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz."
IRNA quoted him as saying Iran had "no desire" for hostilities, but "our enemies will give up on their plots against Iran only if we give them a firm and strong lesson."
The narrow strait, which includes Iranian territorial waters, is a vital artery for transporting about a third of the world's tanker-borne oil and about 17 percent of all world oil shipments.
About 13 tankers carrying 15.5 million barrels of crude oil pass through the strait on an average day, including crude from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The threats came as U.S. President Barack Obama prepared to sign legislation that could substantially reduce Iran's oil revenue, in a bid to deter Tehran from pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
U.S. and European officials, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, allege Tehran is planning to build nuclear weapons.
Iran, the world's No. 3 energy exporter, relies on oil exports to finance as much as half its national budget.
The U.S. legislation, passed by Congress, would penalize foreign corporations that do business with Iran's central bank, which collects payments for most of the country's energy exports.