Iran General NewsNavy chief tells Bush of Iran fears

Navy chief tells Bush of Iran fears

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Press Association: A naval commander has told US President George W Bush that he is taking the recent confrontation between Iranian and US Navy forces in the Persian Gulf “deadly seriously”. The Press Association

A naval commander has told US President George W Bush that he is taking the recent confrontation between Iranian and US Navy forces in the Persian Gulf “deadly seriously”.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Mr Bush did not raise the showdown in the Hormuz Strait when he spoke with US Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Gulf. But Mr Perino said Adm Cosgriff told the president that he took it very seriously when an Iranian fleet of high-speed boats on January 6 charged at and threatened to blow up a three-ship US Navy convoy passing near Iranian waters. The Iranian naval forces vanished as the American ship commanders were preparing to open fire

Mr Bush spoke with Vice Adm Cosgriff after he had a breakfast of pancakes and bacon with troops of the US 5th Fleet based in Bahrain.

“All the military people remember what happened in the past, such as the USS Cole,” Mr Perino said, referring to the October 2000 terrorist attack on a US warship, the USS Cole. The attack in Yemen’s Aden harbour by a small boat laden with explosives killed 17 sailors and nearly sank the Cole.

After visiting with the troops, Mr Bush boarded Air Force One bound for the United Arab Emirates where he was to give a speech in Abu Dhabi about regional security and his push for democratic reform in the Mideast.

On Saturday in Kuwait, Mr Bush said he was open to the possibility of slowing or stopping plans to bring more US troops home from Iraq, defying domestic demands to speed the withdrawals. Updated on war developments, Mr Bush said the US presence in Iraq will outlast his presidency.

Mr Bush said any decision about troops levels “needs to be based upon success”. He said there was no discussion about specific numbers when he was briefed by General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Baghdad.

Gen Petraeus and Mr Crocker are to give Congress an update on Iraq in March and make a recommendation about troop levels.

“Iraq is now a different place from one year ago,” the president said. “Much hard work remains, but levels of violence are significantly reduced. Hope is returning to Baghdad and hope is returning to towns and villages throughout the country.”

Polls show people in the US overwhelmingly oppose the war. The Democratic-led Congress has tried for a year to force Mr Bush to order withdrawals or set deadlines for pullbacks. But the President has prevailed in every showdown.

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