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People's Daily Online

U.S. warships sent to near Yemen to monitor Iranian vessels

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 10:55, April 21, 2015

WASHINGTON, April 20 -- The U.S. Navy has sent an aircraft carrierand a guided-missile cruiser to the Arabian Sea near Yemenin a bid to step up U.S. naval presence amidst mounting concerns over Yemen's anarchic chaos, U.S. Navy said Monday.

'In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen,' said a statement issued by the U.S. navy, adding that the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escort cruiser USS Normandy were redeployed from its station in the Arabian Gulf to the Arabian Sea on Sunday.

The statement said the aim of the redeployment was to ensure access and safety of the vital maritime lanes in the region, adding that Theodore Roosevelt and Normandy would join other U.S. forces there to conduct maritime security operations.

The redeployment came at a time when U.S. officials were keeping an eye on at least seven Iranian ships with unknown cargo heading towards Yemen in what U.S. officials believed was an effort to arm the Iranian-allied anti-government Shiite Houthi group.

'One of the concerns that we have with Iranian behavior in terms of the destabilizing impact they're having on the broader region is the fact that they continue to supply weapons and offer support to the Houthis in Yemen,' acknowledged White Housespokesman Josh Earnest at the daily briefing.

'We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other forms of support to the Houthis in Yemen,' he added.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Monday dismissed previous reports that the U.S. redeployemnt of naval forces was aimed at confronting Iranian vessels.

'The USS Theodore Roosevelt is repositioning to conduct maritime security operations,' Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters. 'it is not going to intercept any Iranian vessels.'

Yemen's southern provinces have witnessed a drastic escalation of violence since mid March when fighting erupted between Houthi gunmen and tribal militia loyal to Yemen's exiled President Abd- Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is currently in Saudi Arabia after fleeing his presidential palace last month.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia started late March airstrikes on Houthi targets in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and other cities, claiming to protect Hadi's legitimacy and force the Houthis to retreat from cities they have seized since September 2014.

However, analysts say fears that Iran would expand its reach across the region mainly fueled Saudi Arabia-led assaults. The United Statesso far has been merely providing logistic and intelligence aid to the air campaign.

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