Tehran on Monday escalated its threats against the west after Europe struck at the Islamic republic’s lifeblood by agreeing to impose an oil embargo on it.

Tehran threatened to respond by closing the strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of global oil supplies pass, while a senior US official vowed that the west could use force to keep the route open.

The decision by EU foreign ministers in Brussels raised the stakes dramatically in the standoff between Iran and the west over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“If any disruption happens regarding the sale of Iranian oil, the strait of Hormuz will definitely be closed,” warned Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs and national security committee. Closing the strait would choke off global oil supplies and send international tensions soaring.

Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to Nato in Brussels, pledged that Washington and its allies would keep the waterway open to international shipping and the oil business.