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US wants coalition to protect strategic Gulf waters: general

[WASHINGTON] The US aims to form a coalition to guarantee freedom of navigation in strategic Gulf waters amid fraught relations between Washington and Tehran, a top general told media on Tuesday.

Tensions in the area - through which nearly a third of the world's oil is transported - have spiked in recent weeks, with the US blaming Iran for multiple attacks on tanker ships in the region, and Tehran shooting down an American drone.

"We're engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab," General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a video carried by the Reuters news agency.

"I think probably over the next couple weeks we'll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we'll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that'll support that," Gen Dunford said.

The US would provide "maritime domain awareness and surveillance," while ships would be escorted by the nations whose flag they carry, the general said.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he hopes more than 20 countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, would work together on building maritime security.

"We'll need you all to participate, your military folks," Mr Pompeo said.

"The president is keen on sharing that the United States doesn't bear the cost of this."

AFP

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