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US aircraft carrier passes Suez Canal on Gulf deployment

9th May 2019 - 15:54 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in Cairo

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American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln passed through the Suez Canal on 9 May, Egyptian authorities said, as a US strike group heads towards the Gulf amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran.

US President Donald Trump's national security advisor John Bolton on 5 May announced the deployment of an aircraft strike group and bomber task force in a ‘clear and unmistakable’ message to Iran that it would respond to any attack on the US or its allies.

To reach the Gulf, the carrier must pass through the strategically vital Suez Canal which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. 

Gen Ralph Groover, the US defence attaché in Cairo, commended Egyptian authorities for ensuring the vessel's ‘complete safety’ during its passage, according to a statement from the canal's Port Authority.

A senior official from the authority, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed to AFP that the carrier had passed through the canal smoothly. ‘We have nothing to do with (its) political dimensions,’ he said.

In his announcement 5 May, Bolton stopped short of saying Washington planned to enter into a direct conflict with Tehran.

But the deployment comes amid increasingly belligerent rhetoric following Washington's withdrawal last year from the multi-party 2015 deal over Iran's nuclear programme.

In recent weeks, Trump's administration has re-imposed stringent sanctions on Iran and blacklisted the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group. In response, Tehran said it would stop abiding by parts of the nuclear agreement. 

Iran on 6 May dismissed the naval deployment as ‘old news’, saying Iranian forces had seen the vessel enter the Mediterranean three weeks earlier.

The USS Abraham Lincoln has been deployed to the Gulf on previous occasions, including during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

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