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.
Putin said Ukraine's presidential election campaign was being conducted in an unacceptable manner and Russia would not view its results as legitimate
Kenyan police say they plan to deport as many as 225 illegal immigrants, including 214 Somalis.
Putin, a former spy during Soviet rule, raised a laugh among the studio audience when he said: "You are an ex-agent. I used to have ties to intelligence."
A water station was also completely burned down after local residents set fire to oil patches in the river, according to eyewitnesses.
Russian President said it was U.S. hypocrisy that had brought relations to their worst level since the Cold War
The Nigerian army announced the release of nearly 121 schoolgirls earlier abducted by Boko Haram, but Borno state officials denied the statement
Having worked as a telecommunications spy for Israel for 25 years, General Barokh Mezraahi had served along the borders of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.
The F5 fighter plane had crashed during a training mission in the eastern part of the kingdom.
Jewish Passover celebrations began in Israel on Tuesday and will last for seven days.
"We believe that this approach allows for the most useful process with the Russian Federation and other third parties," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said
Putin criticised the government in Kiev for what he said was a mishandling of the situation in eastern Ukraine that is "dragging the country into an abyss."
The media storm over the purported killings in Kramatorsk petered out, and Russian forces on the border have so far stayed put.
Nine people were found dead and 179 had been rescued, according to the South Korean government, leaving 287 unaccounted for and possibly still trapped in the vessel.
Media reports said he was facing the possibility of charges of negligence leading to death and also for violating a law that stipulates the conduct of shipping crew.
A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said the visit had been postponed for scheduling reasons.
Some 17 other soldiers were injured in the attack, which the source blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group.