UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an easing of tensions between Iran and the United States ‘peacefully’.

A war of words between Washington and Tehran has escalated in recent days with Iran warning the United States against sending naval vessels through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Ban called on both sides to ‘do their best’ to defuse tensions in the region, and resolve their differences through talks. Ban also said it was ultimately up to Iran to prove its nuclear programme was solely for peaceful purposes.

The UN chief also said he remained ‘concerned’ over a recent report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, suggesting there is a military dimension to Iran’s nuclear programme. The findings of the report have been denied by Iran and challenged by several other countries, including Russia.

He called on Tehran to abide by UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iran stop enriching uranium. Its failure to do so has resulted in Iran being slapped with four rounds of UN sanctions.

An estimated 40 per cent of the world’s oil supply passes through the Strait of Hormuz. While the Iranian Naval Force held a 10-day drill which ended on Monday in neighbouring seas and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) plans to begin new round of naval exercises in the waterway next month.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear programme, Iran insists its programme is for peaceful purposes.