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The USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz aircraft carriers and their strike groups entered Gulf waters to support troops in Iraq and conduct training exercises, the US Navy said Wednesday.
"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," the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet said.
Iran continues to defy UN Security Council demands to scrap its uranium enrichment programme and has instead expanded its activities, the International Atomic Energy Agency said today, in a finding that sets the stage for new council sanctions.
The report from Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, also faulted Tehran for blocking IAEA efforts to probe suspicious nuclear activities, saying that meant it could not ``provide assurances about ... the exclusively peaceful nature'' of its atomic programme.
But Mustafa Alani, a senior analyst with the UAE-based Gulf Research Centre, said it was no coincidence the US ships arrived on the same day the UN nuclear watchdog was due to issue a report expected to show Iran continuing to defy UN demands that it stop enriching uranium.
"The aim of this step, which coincides entirely with the end of the UN deadline, is to send a clear message to Iran that a military option is available to Washington," Alani told AFP by telephone.