May 24, 2007 in Nation/World

U.S. stages show of force off Iran’s coast

Barbara Surk Associated Press
 

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Ships packed with 17,000 sailors and Marines moved into the Persian Gulf on Wednesday as the U.S. Navy staged another show of force off Iran’s coast just days before U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad.

The war games – which culminate in an amphibious landing exercise in Kuwait, just a few miles from Iran – appear to be a clear warning to Tehran, coming just ahead of the Baghdad talks and as the United Nations contemplates tightening sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

U.S. and Iranian ambassadors are to meet Monday in Baghdad to discuss Iraq’s security issues. Tehran has objected to U.S. claims that Iran is supplying Iraqi Shiite militias with roadside bombs that kill American troops.

The U.S. has also accused Iran of covertly developing nuclear weapons; Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Publicly, at least, the Navy isn’t saying the maneuvers, which are expected to last several weeks, are directed at Iran.

“The timing of the exercise was determined by the availability of forces in the area of operations,” said Lt. John Gay, spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet. Warships under 5th Fleet command patrol the Gulf, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

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