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US moves military to Gulf


The US has moved more warships and fighter aircraft to the Persian Gulf to keep the strategic Straits of Hormuz open and strike deep within Iran if the stand-off over its nuclear programme escalates.


Quoting senior American officials, The New York Times said the new deployment to bolster military presence in the gulf is aimed at reassuring Israel that Washington is serious about neutralising Iran’s nuclear ambitions.


The reports of the US moving new forces to the region came as Tehran announced that it had test-fired a new range of ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel. Iranian news agency IRNA said Iran’s revolutionary guards had fired missiles in the Kavir Desert in central Iran to show its ability to hit back, if attacked.


IRNA also said that along with the medium range Shahab-3, Iran had also test-fired 300-500 km strike distance Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles.


The Times quoted senior US officials as saying that Washington was determined to keep the strategic waterway open at all costs. “The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it’,” a defence department official said.


“Don’t even think about closing the strait. We’ll clear the mines. Don’t even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf,” the official said.


Times said since late spring, stealth F-22 and older F-15C warplanes had moved into two separate bases in the Persian Gulf to bolster the combat jets already in the region and the carrier strike groups that are on constant tours of the area.


These new deep penetration strike aircraft give the US military greater capability against coastal missile batteries that could threaten shipping, as well as the reach to strike other targets deeper inside Iran.


Iran has threatened to close the strategic Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the oil-rich Gulf if its nuclear programme is targeted by air strikes. With an eye on the threat of Iran, the US administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman.


West dragging its feet at N-talks: Iran


Iran on Wednesday accused world powers of dragging their feet in negotiations over its nuclear activities, as both sides were about to hold a new, downgraded round of talks in Istanbul.


Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a weekly briefing that, if the powers ignored Iran’s nuclear “rights” and failed to bargain on equal terms, the negotiations could lead to an “impasse”.


“All that can reinforce the idea that there is a desire to drag out the negotiations or prevent their success,” he said.


He also said to reporters after the briefing that “illogical, irresponsible” Western sanctions “amount to a hostile act against Iran and its national interests.”


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