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US admiral praises UAE military support

posted on 19/04/2008: 685 views

United States Navy's highest ranking officer has thanked the UAE for supporting his country's military personnel stationed near the Arabian Gulf.

Speaking at the Dubai Press Club yesterday, Admiral Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations for the US, said: "The importance of the UAE to the United States Navy is significant.

"The support we have received, the opportunities that our people have to come to the UAE to rest and recuperate and recharge is greatly appreciated.”

Admiral Roughead, on a tour of the region this week, had been meeting with naval officials from Arab states allied with the US.

He has already visited Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and will be travelling to Djoubiti where the US has stationed thousands of Marines on humanitarian operations.

The US and the UAE are firm allies, with its sailors taking regular shore leaves in the country.

In January, the US President George Bush toured the country for the first time, making stops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

But there have been complaints regarding the conduct of US troops in the UAE, partly as a result of tension over America's military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Admiral Roughead said the navy made it a point to educate US soldiers on the country's Islamic values.

"We provide a great deal of information to our sailors with regard to local customs and traditions,” he said. "Our sailors are mindful and we teach and every one of them that they are ambassadors of the United States”

During his presentation, the admiral also praised the country's role in regional affairs, and said: "There is no questions that the broader leadership of the UAE in the region is important. The influence of the UAE adds to stability and peace.”

But he said Arab states could make greater use of their naval fleets to increase security. The admiral added that information could be better shared between states to combat piracy and smuggling in arms and drugs in the region.

At least two UAE vessels have been hijacked in the past year near Somalia, a country that is on the brink of civil war and not able to patrol its coastal waters.

"The biggest obstacle is how we share information among navies,” said Admiral Roughead.

"Two countries may work together, but when you bring in three or four then that becomes a little more problematic.”

He also referred to the importance of co-operation with the Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition naval task force with logistics facilities at Djibouti.

As the highest ranking officer in the US Navy, Admiral Roughead directly advises the president of the United States.

He called for greater co-operation comes amid concerns over rising tensions between the White House and Iran.

Over the past year, there have been a string of unfriendly encounters between the US navy and its allies and Iran. In September, 15 British soldiers were captured by Iranian forces and held for several days in an intense stand off with the West.

Admiral Roughead referred to an incident in the Arabian Gulf last week, where a suspected Iranian vessel came dangerously close to a US naval ship.

During the incident, he said the US vessel fired a flare into the air to warn the suspicious ship, which then left the scene.

The admiral used the incident as a platform to criticise Iran and its Revolutionary Guard.

"What I would like to see — particularly for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard navy — is for it to be more professional, more responsive, and more mindful of the importance of communicating, not just with the US navy but with any navy, with regard to intentions and movements.” – The National


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