x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

US deploys second aircraft carrier to Arabian Gulf

USS Enterprise to patrol amid concern over Iran's nuclear intentions.

KUWAIT CITY // A second US aircraft carrier has been sent to the Arabian Gulf as uncertainty continues over the aims of Iran's nuclear programme.

Commander Amy Derrick-Frost of the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said yesterday the deployment of the nuclear-powered USS Enterprise along the Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group marks only the fourth time in the past decade that the two aircraft carriers operated at the same time in the region.

The two carriers will support the American military operations in Afghanistan and anti-piracy efforts off Somalia's coast.

The warships will also patrol the Gulf's oil routes.

Meanwhile, the head of Kuwait's national oil company said his country was mulling "many scenarios" in case the Strait of Hormuz is closed.

"We are discussing many scenarios but we have not decided which" plan to adopt, the CEO of Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC), Faruq Al Zanki, said.

"This is something that needs to be coordinated with the GCC states," Mr Al Zanki told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of a Gulf Petroleum Conference.

Iran has frequently threatened to close the strait, through which most Gulf oil exports pass, if it is militarily attacked over its controversial nuclear programme.

Mr Al Zanki said KPC has been asked to look into this issue.

"KPC has been asked to look into what we think [we can do about the possible closure of Hormuz] and this is something we are looking into."

He said such contingency scenarios were discussed by the GCC states in the past and "we need to re-visit it and come up with a specific plan, agreed by all states".

He declined to say if GCC countries were currently engaged in studies over the possible closure of the strait.

Kuwait pumps about 3 million barrels per day and most of it is exported as crude and refined products through the Strait of Hormuz.

The UAE is building pipelines to bypass the strait.

In January, Mohammad Al Hameli, the UAE Minister of Energy, said a Habshan-Fujairah pipeline, to be finished by June, would be able to pump 1.5 million barrels a day from fields in Abu Dhabi to Fujairah.

The UAE is also working on a gas terminal in Fujairah.

* Reporting by Associated Press and Agence France-Presse