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.
Hundreds of demobilized child soldiers still need education, rehabilitation
The Philippines said on Thursday it would resume repair and reconstruction works in the disputed South China Sea.
Pakistan army fights off attack by dozens of fighters in Khyber Agency region, according to military agency.
The Saudi navy has evacuated 86 Saudi, Arab and Western diplomats from the southern Yemeni port city Aden, reported Al Arabiya News Channel on Saturday.
Yemen's Houthi rebels on Saturday claimed to have shot down a warplane from a Saudi-led coalition and captured its pilot during a bombing mission in the capital Sana'a.
More than 2,300 Palestinians killed and more than 17,000 injured, according to annual report by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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Washington has limited its help to providing logistical and intelligence support.
Resolution calls on Assad government, Daesh and foreign fighters to halt bloodshed.
Russian finance minister says deal with Kiev 'not done on a commercial basis because of the risks it carries'.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the funds would be sent for humanitarian reasons and "Israel's interests", without saying whether the transfer would be repeated.
Sierra Leone, the country worst-affected by the disease, has reported nearly 12,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths since the epidemic was declared a year ago.
"The Israeli occupation has agreed to extend a direct natural gas pipeline to operate Gaza's power plant," Haniyeh said in a Friday sermon delivered at a Gaza mosque.
Saad asserted that the army had sent reinforcements and was planning to send more troops to the restive area to secure the elections
An East Africa regional bloc on Friday signed two agreements with international partners to provide support for "drought resilience" activities.
Al-Shabab gunmen fought their way into a popular hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Friday, trapping government officials inside, police said. "Al Shabaab fighters are on the top of the building and inside the hotel," Major Ismail Olow , a police officer, told Reuters. "Some government officials are inside the hotel."