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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bahrain navy gung-ho on coalition security effort for Gulf

ABU DHABI Bahrain is the only Gulf state participating in a Western-sponsored coalition to protect the Gulf from Iran and Al Qaida.

Bahrain has become the first Gulf Cooperation Council state to join the Combined Maritime Forces, or CFT-152, designed to ensure commercial shipping throughout the Gulf. The GCC kingdom has contributed several surface vessels for patrols with the navies of Britain, France and the United States.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet and naval component of Central Command, conducts regular exercises with the U.S. Navy in the Gulf, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said Manama has also participated in multilateral exercises.

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"What we try to do in the coalition is not try to do their [GCC states] work, because it is the responsibility of each country, and Bahrain has a very good record at doing these sorts of things consistently and well," said Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command as well as the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Cosgriff said Bahrain's participation in CFT-152 has bolstered Gulf security operations. He expressed the hope that other GCC states would decide to join the 20-member coalition, which has also been fighting piracy in the Gulf.

"But we could team with a country like Bahrain, or other regional countries and provide an additional layer," Cosgriff told a briefing on July 29.

"I've been working here since February with the military and I've been uniformly impressed with the quality of the officers and sailors in the Bahrain Navy and other members of the Bahrain forces," Cosgriff said.

In 2006, Bahrain joined the first multilateral security exercise in the Gulf, organized by the United States. The exercise was meant to test the coalition's ability to track and intercept a shipment of weapons of mass destruction to Iran. Bahrain is located about 120 kilometers from Iran.

"We watch what their [Iran's] ships do when they go to sea, and of course they watch what our ships do, too," Cosgriff said. "We are not trying to provoke them. We operate consistently and openly inside the Gulf and outside the Gulf."

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