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.
Countries including Slovakia and the Czech Republic are not prepared to join the call to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine.
Tehran says will share information about citizens who boarded flight with stolen passports
The French government rejects the opposition MPs' claims that executive authorities, especially the presidency, were informed of the wiretapping of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog.
The speaker of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said the body remained opposed to the secession initiative but saw the parliament’s move as a positive step.
Lawyer for former military dictator Musharraf, on trial for treason, ordered removed from court for 'misbehaving'
The women were taken after soldiers without insignia spotted a pro-Maidan tattoo on one of the women's hands at a checkpoint.
Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, now the Navy's top cyber warrior, was cautious during often terse exchanges at a Senate hearing on his confirmation
Kerry and Lavrov "exchanged opinions about concrete proposals by Russia and the United States to ensure civil peace and concord" in Ukraine, the ministry said
Comments were the latest salvo in a long-running and bitter dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA over documents outlining the agency's handling of the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Tuesday lost a confidence vote in parliament and will be replaced temporarily by the defence minister, parliament's spokesman Omar Hmeidan said.
Bomb attacks have increased since last year, raising concern about further instability in the Western-allied kingdom
In recent weeks a string of leaders have compared Modi's rise to the emergence of fascism in Europe.
Pistorius is facing separate gun charges for the two incidents, part of the prosecution's attempts to paint him as a cocky, gun-obsessed hot-head who does not like to take responsibility for his actions
Tusk said the European Union would impose sanctions on Russia starting on Monday over its military intervention in Ukraine's Crimea region
A Ukrainian airline plane was turned back on its way from Kiev to Simferopol, the region's main city, and had to return to the Ukrainian capital.
The United States says both the air drills in Poland and its joint naval exercises in the Black Sea were planned before the crisis in Ukraine