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.
ISIL has taken full control of Gardabiya, the main airport in Sirte after clashes with troops loyal to the Libyan government.
ISIL is set on dividing the Arabian peninsula and increasing sectarian violence in the region.
At least 85 civilians reported killed after government forces carry out raids in Aleppo province, monitoring group says.
The Syrian regime has evacuated the Deir ez-Zor museum's contents to an unknown destination.
Mohamed Soltan, the son of senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Salah Soltan was released from an Egyptian prison after relinquishing his Egyptian nationalityand is on his way to the USA.
Syrian government forces have evacuated Ariha as the alliance of opposition forces have advanced upon the Syrian town of Ariha which borders Turkey
The Houthi have abducted Yemeni lawyer Ahmed al-Hajj and three of his sons from his home in Ibb province.
Qatar will open an embassy in Baghdad, Iraq's foreign minister said Friday.
ISIL has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack at the entrance of a mosque in Saudi Arabia today.
A nine year $12 billion dollar petrochemical project will be built in the Iranian city of Chabahar.
Iran has shared a very limited amount of information with the IAEA with no breakthrough in its inquiry regarding Iran's nuclear plans.
The bomb detonated outside Imam Hussein mosque in the city of al-Dammam during the Friday sermon.
The UN aid chief in her final briefing to Security Council, has painted a disturbed picture of the savagery of the war.
Saudi-led coalition warplanes struck Houthi militias in Yemen on Friday
The EU has extended the sanction over Syria for another year, also adding a senior official to its sanctions list.
Israel already gets at least $3 billion annually from Washington however fears over an Iran deal has seen a request from Israel to the US to increase the spending.