11:03 GMT26 February 2021
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    Earlier in the day, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reportedly approved hosting of US troops in the kingdom in a bid to enhance security in the region.

    The acting US defence secretary has authorized the deployment of "US military personnel and resources" to Saudi Arabia, according to a statement issued by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

    "In coordination with and at the invitation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Secretary of Defense has authorized the movement of U.S. personnel and resources to deploy to Saudi Arabia. This movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats. This movement creates improvement of operational depth and logistical networks. U.S. Central Command continually assesses force posture in the region and is working with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia authorities to base U.S. assets at the appropriate locations," the statement reads.

    Earlier, the SPA news agency reported that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had approved deployment of US troops to the kingdom.

    An official from the Saudi ministry of defence said that the decision was aimed at boosting "joint cooperation [between Saudi Arabia and the US] in defence of regional security and stability and to preserve its peace."

    "Based on mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and their desire to enhance everything that could preserve the security of the region and its stability... King Salman gave his approval to host American forces," a ministry spokesman was quoted by Saudi state news agency SPA as saying.

    The US announcement of the deployment was expected to be made next week, according to CNN.

    According to the CNN report, the site for the deployment of the US troops - the Prince Sultan Air Base - was chosen because it is located in a remote area that would take longer for Iranian missiles to reach.

    Neither the US Department of Defence or Riyadh have confirmed the location to which the US troops will be deployed.

    The upcoming deployment is expected to reinforce the US military and support personnel already on site with beginning preparations for a Patriot surface-to-air missile system, a runway and other airfield improvements.

    Earlier in the day, CENTCOM announced that the US armed forces have surveillance aircraft observing the situation in the Strait of Hormuz.

    "We have patrol aircraft operating in international airspace monitoring the situation within the Strait of Hormuz," CENTCOM Chief of Media Operations Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown said on Friday. "US Naval Forces Central Command has been in contact with US ships operating in the area to ensure their safety."

    The statement comes after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) confiscated the UK-flagged Stena Imperio oil tanker, which the IRGC said was in violation of international regulations.

    Tension in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf region in particular has escalated following a series of incidents with oil tankers in May and June. The United States and its allies blame Iran for the incidents, but Tehran denies involvement.


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