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News Wrap: Despite Iranian Threats, U.S. Navy Sending Warships to Persian Gulf

January 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: Wall Street got the New Year off to a good start. Stocks rallied from the opening bell on positive economic news out of China and Germany. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 179 points to close at 12,397. The Nasdaq rose more than 43 points to close at 2,648.

The U.S. Navy will continue sending warships to the Persian Gulf, despite threats from Iran. That word came today after Iran said it’s just completed naval drills showing it could close the Strait of Hormuz if the West tries to embargo Iranian oil. The commander of Iran’s army pointed to the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, which left the Persian Gulf last week.

GEN. ATAOLLAH SALEHI, Iranian Army (through translator): In my opinion, the enemy has gotten the message of the military drill. We want to emphasize that we have no plan to begin any irrational act, but we are ready against any threat. We warned the American warship that was previously in the Persian Gulf it is a threat to us and it shouldn’t return. We are not used to repeating our warnings.

KWAME HOLMAN: In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said U.S. naval deployments in the Persian Gulf would continue, as they have for decades.

And White House spokesperson Jay Carney said Iran’s warnings show that global sanctions are hurting.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: It reflects the fact that Iran is in a position of weakness. It’s the latest round of Iranian threats. And it’s confirmation that Tehran is under increasing pressure for its continued failures to live up to its international obligation. Iran is isolated and is seeking to divert attention from its behavior and domestic problems.

KWAME HOLMAN: Iran’s warnings to the West have escalated as it faces the possibility of curbs on its vital oil exports.

A string of bombings struck southern Afghanistan today, killing at least 13 people. Three separate explosions erupted in the city of Kandahar, one in the morning, the others in the evening. One of the bombs was on board a motorcycle that blew up at a police checkpoint. Four police officers and a child were among those killed. The other blasts went off within minutes of each other at a busy intersection.

In Egypt, prosecutors began to make their case in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak. They accused him of tyranny and corruption during his decades of rule, in the first of three days of opening statements. Mubarak could face the death penalty if convicted. His two sons and eight other defendants also are on trial.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.