Saturday, March 31, 2007

No Overlap (but if they stay, that will make 3)

US carrier deploys amid Iran tensions
Fri Mar 30, 12:01 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will sail Monday to support US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Navy said, amid a spike in tensions over Iran's seizure of 15 British marines and sailors.

The Nimitz, and its battle group of destroyers and guided missile cruisers, will relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which this week took part in war games exercises in the Gulf with another carrier, USS John S Stennis.

The new battle group will be in position by late-to-mid April, but there will be no overlap with the Eisenhower, and the number of US carriers in the area would stay at two, a navy official said on condition of anonymity.

"If anything, there would be a point where there is only one in the region," the official said, on condition of anonymity.

The Stennis and the Eisenhower wound down their show of force involving 15 warships in the Gulf on Thursday.

The two carrier deployment in the Gulf was the highest level US naval presence in the key strategic channel since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The Nimitz will support operations in Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan, the navy said in a press release.

The Stennis had been operating in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea but entered Gulf waters on Tuesday, escorted by the guided-missile carrier USS Antietam, the Fifth Fleet said.

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