Washington, Jan 19: The US military is "fully prepared" for any confrontation with Iran over moves to close the strategic Gulf of Hormuz, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said as White House indicated that option of diplomatic negotiations was still open for Tehran.
"We always continue to make preparations to be prepared for any contingency," Panetta told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. Panetta was asked whether in the face of Iran's threat to close the straits in retaliation for the new international economic sanctions, Washington was adjusting American forces in the region.
"We are not making any special steps at this point in order to deal with the situation. Why? Because, frankly, we are fully prepared to deal with that situation now," he said. Comments of the Defence Secretary came as Washington is reported beefing up its naval presence in the mouth of the Gulf in response to the threats by Iran.
Reports said that US has added a second carrier strike group in the Middle East. The new carrier in the region are USS Carl Vinson ans USS Abraham Lincoln. The Americans also have forces in nearby UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and other Gulf nations.
The buildup of American forces comes in the wake of Tehran's threat to close the straits -- a choke point for one-fifth of the world's traded oil. The United States, Panetta said, has always made clear its policies regards to Iran, both in terms of their not obtaining a nuclear weapon and also, obviously, not closing the Straits of Hormuz.