Iranian lawmaker says Obama proposed talks

US President Barack Obama has called for direct talks with Iran in a secret letter to the Islamic Republic's supreme leader that also warned Teheran against closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a conservative Iranian lawmaker was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Iran has threatened to close the waterway, the route for about one-sixth of the global oil flow, because of new US sanctions over its nuclear programme. Conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari revealed the content of the letter days after the Obama administration said it was warning Iran through public and private channels against any action that threatens the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf.

"In the letter, Obama called for direct talks with Iran," the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Motahari as saying on Wednesday.

"The letter also said that closing the Strait of Hormuz is (Washington's) red line."

"The first part of the letter contains threats and the second part contains an offer for dialogue," he added.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast confirmed that Teheran received the letter and was considering a possible response. The White House had no immediate comment today.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor pointed to the administration warning efforts that were revealed Friday. Spokesmen have been vague on what the United States would do about Iran's threat to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but military officials have been clear that the US is readying for a possible naval clash. Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the country's most powerful military force, says Teheran's leadership has decided to order the closure of the oil route if Iran's oil exports are blocked.

A senior Guard officer said earlier this month that the decision has been made by Iran's top authorities. Iranian politicians have made the threat in the past, but this was the strongest statement yet that a closure of the strait is official policy. Iran's regular army recently held naval war games near the vital waterway that were described by hard-liners as part of preparations to close the strait if sanctions are imposed. The Guard is planning major naval military exercises next month in the same region.

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