14:16 GMT +314 December 2019
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    USS Abraham Lincoln

    Washington Plans to Create Coalition to 'Ensure Freedom of Navigation' off Iran, Yemen - US General

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    Iranian officials have earlier blasted the US over the Gulf buildup, calling the superpower's military presence in the Mideast the "weakest in history".

    Washington has developed a plan to create an international military coalition that would safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford said.

    "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," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

    "And so I think probably over the next couple of 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," Dunford added.

    Earlier, US Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Jim Malloy said the Navy would not rule out sending the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group through the Strait of Hormuz if doing so was found to be necessary. The strait is a strategic narrow body of water is separating the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Sea.

    The sharp escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States began in May 2018, when US President Donald Trump announced Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Last month, on the one year anniversary of Trump's announcement, Iranian leaders said the country would suspend some of their voluntary commitments under the nuclear deal, citing the other signatories' apparent inability to withstand US pressure.

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