World Bulletin/News Desk
A U.S. navy ship that had been slated for decommissioning has been sent instead to the Gulf to help mine-clearing operations, the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain said, the latest move in a gradual U.S. build-up as tensions with Iran smoulder.
A fleet spokesman in Manama said the USS Ponce, described as a "afloat forward staging base" (AFSB), had arrived on Thursday after undergoing refitting for its new mission.
"Ponce's primary mission is to support mine countermeasures operations and other missions, such as the ability to provide repair service to other deployed units," the spokesman said in a statement. "Additionally, Ponce also has the capability to embark and launch small riverine craft."
Vice Admiral John Miller, commander of regional navy forces, said the Ponce boasted "enhanced capability to conduct maritime security operations, and gives us greater flexibility to support a wide range of contingencies with our regional partners".
Four U.S. minesweepers arrived in the Gulf last month to bolster the Fifth Fleet and ensure the safety of shipping routes in a waterway through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports flow.
They arrived amid a flaring war of nerves between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear energy programme and Iranian threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, the slender oil shipping channel out of the Gulf, in retaliation for a new European Union ban on its oil exports.
The four minesweepers were ticketed for a seven-month deployment in an area of operations that includes the Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.
Tensions have simmered in the Gulf with big-power diplomacy to ease the nuclear dispute at an impasse and Israel renewing veiled threats to attack Iran from the air if sanctions and negotiations fail to curb Iran's nuclear advances.
A string of hawkish Iranian statements - including a renewed threat to close the Strait and destroy U.S. bases in the region "within minutes" of an attack - over the past week helped thrust benchmark Brent crude oil prices above $100 for the first time since June.
Iran has repeatedly warned of reprisals for any Israeli or U.S.-led strike on its nuclear installations.
Fighters from the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi movement seized Sanaa on Sept. 21 after overrunning an army brigade affiliated to the moderate Islamist Islah party, making them effectively the power brokers in the country.
A spokesman for Congo's government said an investigation had been launched into the situation but health problems that people face across Congo, rather than poor management at the camp, were most likely to be the cause of the deaths.
Bernadino Leon, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, said a second step would be to seek talks with the militias that now run the desert nation.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the step would also send a "troubling message" if the Israeli government proceeded with tenders and construction.
The Army gave no reason for the decision to drop the charges against Sergeant First Class Michael Barbera.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing had "very formally and clearly stated its position: Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs. All countries should respect China's sovereignty."
U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson steps down after an incident in which an Iraq war veteran with a knife scaled the White House fence, sprinted across the lawn and got deep inside the mansion before an off-duty agent stopped him.
Two blasts killed at least 45 people, including 41 children, in the Syrian city of Homs.
The Israeli authorities announced a decision early last month to confiscate 4,000 dunams of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
Transport minister Damir Hadzic described the move as a 'historic event'.
Kenyan anti-terrorism police arrested the two on suspicion of plotting an attack in Kenya as they prepared to board a flight at Nairobi aiport on Sept. 18 bound for Belgium.
Egypt-Turkey relations have nosedived since Egypt's military ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi in July of last year.
New Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani re-opened an inquiry into the theft of almost $1 billion from Kabul Bank with a decree.
Nine other people were wounded, seven of whom were taken to hospital for treatment.
Putin said Russia security services had detected a constant growth in cyber attacks, particularly in the last six months, the period in which the crisis in Ukraine has worsened.
Turkish Cypriot students attending an English school in the Greek Cypriot-controlled south Cyprus are told they cannot have time off for Eid as it is a 'Chrstian school'.