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The US has delayed implementing the sanctions for at least six months, worried about sending the price of oil higher at a time when the global economy is already struggling. But the new sanctions nevertheless prompted a series of threats from Iranian officials about closing the Strait of Hormuz.
The newspaper paraphrased Nouri as saying that a 10-day naval war game which ended Tuesday was preparation for such a closure. The Guard, which is Iran's most powerful military force and which has its own naval arm, has planned more sea maneuvers for February.
"The exalted leader [Khamenei] determined a new strategy for the armed forces, by which any threat from enemies will be responded to with threats," Nouri said.
The US and Israel have said that all options remain open, including military action, should Iran continue with its enrichment program.
Tehran says it needs the program to produce fuel for future nuclear reactors and medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients.
The country has been enriching uranium to less than 5 percent for years, but it began to further enrich part of its uranium stockpile to nearly 20 percent as of February 2010, saying it needs the higher grade material to produce fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients. Weapons-grade uranium is usually about 90 percent enriched.
Iran says the higher enrichment activities — to nearly 20 percent — will be carried out at Fordo. These operations are of particular concern to the West because uranium at 20 percent enrichment can be converted into fissile material for a nuclear warhead much more quickly than that at 3.5 percent.
Built next to a military complex, Fordo was long kept secret and was only acknowledged by Iran after it was identified by Western intelligence agencies in September 2009.
Buried under 300 feet of rock, the facility is a hardened tunnel and is protected by air defense missile batteries and the Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force. The site is located about 20 miles north of Qom, the religious nerve center of Iran's ruling system.
"The Fordo facility, like Natanz, has been designed and built underground. The enemy doesn't have the ability to damage it," the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted nuclear chief Abbasi as saying Sunday.