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Iran army declines comment on MP's Hormuz exercise remarks

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A member of the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee said on Monday that the military was set to practice its ability to close the Gulf to shipping at the narrow Strait of Hormuz, the most important oil transit channel in the world, but there was no official confirmation.

The legislator, Parviz Sarvari, told the student news agency ISNA: "Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure."

Contacted by Reuters, a spokesman for the Iranian military declined to comment.

Iran's energy minister told Al Jazeera television last month that Tehran could use oil as a political tool in the event of any future conflict over its nuclear program.

Tension over the program has increased since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on November 8 that Tehran appears to have worked on designing a nuclear bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Iran has warned it will respond to any attack by hitting Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf and analysts say one way to retaliate would be to close the Strait of Hormuz.

About a third of all sea-borne shipped oil passed through the Strait in 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and U.S. warships patrol the area to ensure safe passage.

Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq - together with nearly all the liquefied natural gas from lead exporter Qatar - must slip through a 4-mile wide shipping channel between Oman and Iran.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi, writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by David Stamp)

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