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Iran: "We could destroy" U.S. bases, strike Israel within minutes

(CBS/AP) TEHRAN - Iran declared Wednesday that it can destroy nearby U.S. military bases and strike Israel within minutes of an attack on the Islamic Republic, reflecting tensions over Iran's suspect nuclear program.

The veiled threat came during a military drill that has included the firing of ballistic missiles. The elite Revolutionary Guards, conducting the war games in Iran's central desert, said that the missiles were aimed at mock-ups of foreign military bases.

Israel and the U.S. have hinted at the possibility of military strikes against Iran if sanctions and diplomacy do not rein in Iran's nuclear development program. The West suspects Iran may be aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

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The semiofficial Fars news agency quoted Gen. Ami Ali Hajizadeh of the Revolutionary Guards as saying U.S. bases are in range of Iran's missiles and could be hit in retaliatory strikes. He referred to Israel as "occupied territories."

"Measures have been taken so that we could destroy all these bases in the early minutes of an attack," said Hajizadeh, chief of the Guards' air-space division.

Israeli officials refused to comment. There was no immediate comment from Washington.

Iran holds several military maneuvers per year, but the current one coincides with the beginning of a European Union oil embargo meant to pressure the country over its nuclear program.

Iran has balked at the EU oil embargo since it was first approved by the 27-nation bloc in January, with Tehran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz - a vital shipping channel through which a fifth of the world's oil supply passes - in retaliation.

Iranian lawmakers appeared to renew the threat of closing Hormuz off to international tanker traffic on Monday, as a member of parliament told news media a "bill has been developed as an answer to the European Union's oil sanctions".

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that any closure of the Strait - regardless of brevity, would send global oil prices soaring.

"There's saber-rattling on both sides," however, notes Palmer. "The U.S. has been building up its own military presence in the Persian Gulf as a deterrent to Iran, and also to Israel which has threatened to attack Iran's nuclear facilities."

The danger, says Palmer, is that with the tension building and U.S. and Iranian military vessels sailing within close range of each other, "a mistake can so rapidly escalate into open conflict."

Guards also successfully test fired an anti-ship missile that could sink U.S. warships in the Gulf, according to Gen. Hajizadeh. He told state TV that the shore-to-sea ballistic missile, called "Persian Gulf," has a range of 180 miles.

State TV showed video of the launching of a white missile that hit a huge target in Gulf waters.

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain, an island in the Gulf about 120 miles from Iran, well within range of Iranian missiles.

On Tuesday Iran said it launched a variety of missiles during the desert drill, including Shahab-3 missiles with a range of 1,200 miles that could reach Israel and southern Europe.

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