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12 allied warships crossed Suez Canal over weekend

Monday, February 3, 2003

CAIRO Egypt has allowed the United States and its allies to take advantage of the Suez Canal for the military buildup against Iraq.

Over the weekend, 12 warships crossed the canal on their way to the region. They included a British Royal Navy carrier group and a U.S. naval submarine, Middle East Newsline reported.

The U.S. Navy's USS Montpelier transited the canal. The Montpelier is a nuclear-powered submarine.

The British naval group was led by the HMS Ark Royal and included three destroyers. They were identified as the HMS York, Liverpool and Edinburgh. Other ships in the carrier group included the HMS Ocean, HMS Sir Tristram and Sir Galahad.

The diplomatic sources said Egypt has allowed the United States to conduct air and ground patrols around the canal area to ensure the safety of the passing warships. They said the United States has promised to increase economic and military aid to Egypt in exchange for Cairo's help.

Egyptian officials said authorities have increased security around Western interests in the country. They cited the arrests of hundreds of suspected Islamic insurgents and their supporters as well as restrictions on anti-U.S. demonstrations organized by the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

"We have completed a study of the influence of a U.S. attack from the security point of view and its repercussions on the internal situation," Egyptian Interior Minister Habib Adly said on Sunday in a meeting with police commanders near the Suez Canal. "The expected problems concern the emigration of foreigners and the arrival of Egyptians from abroad."

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