Two US Aircraft Carriers Reach Gulf Waters


"The carriers and amphibious strike groups and their associated forces will conduct missions in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and will also perform Expeditionary Strike Force training," a statement from the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said.

In January the United States said it planned to keep two carrier battle groups in the Gulf for months — the first such deployment since 2003.

Tension is high in the region over Iran’s controversial atomic energy programme. Washington suspects Iran is secretly trying to develop a nucLear weapon, a charge Tehran strongly denies.

The US Navy said the training exercises planned for the strike groups, whose carriers are both nuclear powered, were not related to the Iran standoff.

"We are conducting this training in order to gain valuable experience across a wide spectrum of naval disciplines," the statement said.

"The timing of this exercise is determined by the availability of forces, and is not connected to events in the region. This exercise is not directed against any nation."

The US Fifth Fleet has its headquarters in Bahrain, a small Gulf archipelago regarded by the United States as a major non-NATO ally. It also has a free trade agreement with Washington.

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