Hammond: More reinforcements will be sent to the Gulf

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BRITAIN will send military reinforcements to the Gulf if the dispute with Iran escalates, defence secretary Philip Hammond said today.

Mr Hammond said the decision to send the frigate HMS Argyll as part of an international flotilla of warships through the sensitive Strait of Hormuz on Sunday sent a ‘clear signal’ to Tehran.

Iran has threatened to close the strait – through which 35 per cent of the world’s oil tankers pass – in retaliation to EU sanctions against its oil exports which were agreed yesterday.

It came as Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Westminster left for a seven-month deployment east of Suez, joining the recently departed Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring in the hostile region.

Asked if more warships could be sent to the Gulf soon, Mr Hammond said: ‘The UK has a contingent capability to reinforce that presence should at any time it be considered necessary to do so.’

He was speaking at a press conference in London yesterday following the annual round of talks between UK and Australian foreign and defence ministers who attended a National Security Council meeting in Whitehall.

Afterwards, Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd said his country would also enforce a ban on Iran’s oil exports.