Friday, March 23, 2007

Perspective: Iran can harass but not block Hormuz ships-experts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran's navy has the power to disrupt but not halt traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, which handles about a third of sea-borne crude oil shipments, defense experts said Friday.

Iran's capture of 15 British sailors Friday sent U.S. crude oil futures to a three-month high above $62 a barrel, as traders pondered renewed tensions between the world's fourth-biggest crude oil exporter and the West.

Washington-based defense experts say that while Iran can harass ship traffic on the Strait, the OPEC member's ability to crimp oil tanker traffic is extremely limited.

"What you're talking about if Iran forced the issue would be a very unpleasant week for the world oil market and an incredibly unpleasant week for Iran's military forces," said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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