MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The admiral in charge of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet defended Thursday the large American-led naval drills taking place in the Persian Gulf and other strategic Mideast waterways as a way to ensure stability and security.

Vice Admiral John W. Miller said that the participation of more than 30 countries in the anti-mine exercises shows there is a broad, common interest in ensuring the region’s sea lanes remain safe. The Navy says the drills are the largest ever focused on mines in the region.

Iran has in the past threatened to block the entrance to the Gulf. Any effort to do so would likely involve mines.

The Navy and its allies are also conducting drills in the Gulf of Oman and in the Gulf of Aden.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.