Navy may beef up forces in Persian Gulf - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/19/06-WASHINGTON

Navy may beef up forces in Persian Gulf

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is already in the Persian Gulf region. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is already in the Persian Gulf region.

The Defense Department is thinking about a major buildup of U.S. Navy forces in the Gulf as a show of force against Iran, a senior defense official said Tuesday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the idea has not been approved, the official said one proposal is to send a second aircraft carrier to the region amid increasing tensions with Iran, blamed for encouraging sectarian violence in neighboring Iran as well as allegedly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The United States and its European allies are seeking sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to stop uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel for civilian purposes or fuel for a nuclear bomb.

In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that U.N. sanctions would not stop Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program, which he has said is for peaceful development of energy.

The idea of building up U.S. Navy forces has been discussed over some time, and it is unclear when a decision will be made, the official said.

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is already in the region. It left the United States in late September with four other ships and submarines carrying 6,500 sailors.

The flotilla headed to the Mediterranean Sea and eventually went to relieve the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise strike group, which was in the region supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also, the U.S. in late October led a naval training exercise aimed at blocking smuggling of nuclear weapons in the Gulf.

The six-nation maneuvers off the coast of Iran were the first of their kind since North Korea's October 9 nuclear test and U.N. sanctions that called on the international community to conduct searches at sea. The measures were made to ensure the reclusive communist nation is not secretly expanding its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration said Monday that Iran is making headway in building nuclear weapons, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to iron out differences with Russia over a U.N. resolution designed to stop the program with economic sanctions.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the Iranians were trying to perfect technology to enrich uranium.

The spokesman provided no details of Rice's telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia, which has close economic ties with Iran, has favored diplomacy over punitive sanctions, but the Bush administration is hoping Moscow may be prepared to approve a watered-down resolution at the U.N. Security Council.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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