AFP: Another US Navy aircraft carrier is heading towards the Middle East, boosting the number of the giant warships in the region to three, the navy said in a statement on Tuesday. MANAMA, July 10, 2007 (AFP) – Another US Navy aircraft carrier is heading towards the Middle East, boosting the number of the giant warships in the region to three, the navy said in a statement on Tuesday.
The nuclear-powered USS Enterprise and its strike group will join the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz in the navy’s Fifth Fleet area of operation, which includes Gulf waters off Iran.
“The Enterprise is heading to Fifth Fleet waters and is not replacing any other ships in the area,” a US Navy spokesperson told AFP without elaborating.
The US Navy has significantly beefed up its presence in the region recently amid growing concerns in the West that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapons programme — an accusation Tehran strongly denies.
The Enterprise “provides navy power to counter the assertive, disruptive and coercive behaviour of some countries, as well as support (to) our soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgrifff said in the statement.
“Regular deployments of the strike groups to the Middle East are not designed to provoke any of the Gulf countries,” it added.
The US Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in the Bahraini capital Manama, and is responsible for an area of some 6.5 square kilometres (2.5 million square miles).
In January Washington said it planned to keep two carrier battle groups in the Gulf for months — the first such deployment since 2003.
The small Gulf archipelago of Bahrain has been designated by the United States as a major non-NATO ally, and also has a free trade agreement with Washington.