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.
The Pentagon criticized Russia's military drills near the border with Ukraine, while Russia demands U.S. stop Ukraine's military operation
Nine police and poll officials were killed, dozens of people injured in India violence during parliamentary elections.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said planes bombed the market in the town of Atareb on Thursday morning, killing 27 people and seriously wounding many others
It is the second time members of parliament have moved against Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah in less than a year over a shortage of state-funded homes.
Security Council members are considering sanctions on South Sudan's warring parties and U.N. peacekeeping chief demanded "serious consequences" be imposed to force an end to the violence
The four warplanes will be sent to Malbork in northern Poland on April 28 on a double mission
"The partition itself has already been done. Now there only remains the declaration of independence," said Abdel Nasser Mahamat Youssouf, member of a youth group lobbying for the secession
A town councillor from the prime minister's party, Rybak was kidnapped last week and his mutilated body was found in a river near Slaviansk
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said "We are forced to react to such a development of the situation."
“Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and honor those who perished in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century” Obama said.
Israeli media reports said that Israel would impose economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Lieberman, who has helped to mastermind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of closer relations with Russia, made no apology for the government's fence-sitting on Ukraine
Mariupol, an industrial port city of nearly half a million people, is one of a series of flashpoints across eastern Ukraine
Wade's impending return has heightened tensions in one of Africa's most stable democracy
Women and children are among the group, some of whom suffer from poor health.
EU leaders consider the takeover as illegal and have asked the EU executive arm, the European Commission, to propose economic, trade and financial restrictions on Crimea for rapid implementation.