Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran's English-language Press TV "the exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days."
The semi-official Fars news agency had earlier reported that Iran had test-fired long-range and other missiles during the exercise on Saturday.
(Created by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Tim Pearce)
Iran’s navy commander says test firing of missiles has been delayed, denies earlier report
Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran’s English-language Press TV : “The exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days.”
He did not say exactly when the launches would start, but explained they would involve tests of “medium- and long-range missiles” to evaluate their operational effectiveness.
The navy exercises started December 24 and are due to end on Monday.
Analysts say the conflicting reports on the missile test aimed to remind the West of the unforeseen consequences it risked if it ratcheted up pressure on Iran over its nuclear work, which the West says is aimed at building nuclear bombs. Tehran denies this.
“The location and the timing of the drill were very shrewd ... then came reports on launching missiles that can target America’s bases in the region and Israel,” analyst Hamid Farahvashian told Reuters.
“One of the messages was that you mess with Iran, then you stand to suffer from economic havoc,” he said. “Iranians have always used this method of carrot and stick ... first they used the stick of closing Hormuz and now the carrot is its willingness for talks.”
The 10-day naval drill in the Gulf began last week as Iran showed its resolve to counter any attack by enemies such as Israel or the United States.
Tehran threatened on Tuesday to stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if it became the target of an oil embargo over its nuclear ambitions, a move that could trigger military conflict with countries dependent on Gulf oil.
Tensions with the West have risen since the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported on Nov. 8 that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end.
Iran denies this and says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity to meet growing domestic demand.
During military drills in 2009, Iran test-fired its surface-to-surface Shahab-3 missile, said to be capable of reaching Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East.
Washington has expressed concern about Tehran’s missiles, which include the Shahab-3 strategic intermediate range ballistic missile with a range of up to 1,000 km (625 miles), the Ghadr-1 with an estimated 1,600 km range and a Shahab-3 variant known as Sajjil-2 with a range of up to 2,400 km.
Iranian media have said the naval exercise differed from previous ones in terms of “the vastness of the area of action and the military equipment and tactics that are being employed”.
Twenty percent of the world’s oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the Gulf, making it the “most important chokepoint” globally, according to information released Friday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Around 14 crude oil tankers per day pass through the narrow strait, carrying a total 17 million barrels. In all, 35 percent of all seaborne oil transited through there this year.
On Thursday, a U.S. aircraft carrier and an accompanying missile cruiser passed through the zone where the Iranian navy was conducting its drill. U.S. officials insisted it was a routine passage.
No confrontation occurred, though an Iranian military aircraft flew in close to record video of the aircraft carrier, which was then shown on state television.
Analysts and oil market traders have been watching developments in and around the Strait of Hormuz carefully, fearing that the intensifying war of words between arch foes Tehran and Washington could spark open confrontation.
With tensions rising, the United States said it has signed a $29.4-billion deal to supply Saudi Arabia with 84 new fighter jets.
The sale was a “strong message” to the Gulf region, Washington said.
Oil minister warns of price increases
“Undoubtedly the price of crude will increase dramatically if sanctions are imposed on our oil ... It will reach at least over $200 per barrel,” minister Rostam Qasemi was quoted by Reuters as telling the weekly.
Letter to EU
“Jalili will soon send a letter to Catherine Ashton over the format of negotiations ... then fresh talks will take place with major powers,” said Iran’s ambassador to Germany Alireza Sheikh Attar.
An EU spokesman said Catherine Ashton wrote to Jalili in October and had not yet had a response. But the European Union was open to meaningful talks with Tehran provided there were no preconditions.
“We continue to pursue our twin-track approach and are open for meaningful discussions on confidence-building measures, without preconditions from the Iranian side,” EU foreign policy spokesman, Michael Mann, said in an email.
Talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, plus Germany (P5+1) stalled in January.
The EU is considering a ban ─ already in place in the United States ─ on imports of Iranian oil, although diplomats and traders say awareness is growing in the EU that such a ban could damage the bloc's economy without doing much to hurt Iran.