US aircraft carrier sent to patrol in the Gulf

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The United States navy has told the crew of the aircraft carrier Nimitz to skip a port call in Singapore and hurry to the Gulf, close to an area where Iranian aircraft have hit targets in Iraq, and Turkey has carried out raids, the Pentagon said yesterday.

The Nimitz was on its way to the Gulf anyway, but by missing Singapore it will arrive by the middle of the month, four or five days earlier than planned.

The triangle of territory where Syria, Turkey and northern Iraq meet saw a sudden escalation of tension this week, with Turkish jets attacking Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas in Iraq, and Iranian warplanes on Monday striking a rebel base near Kut, 105 miles (170km) south-east of Baghdad. Kut is within the part of southern Iraq that the US declared a no-fly zone to prevent Iraqi attacks on Iraqi Shia rebels.

Yesterday, Syria and Iran deployed troops near the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq raided by Turkey. "There is information that Syria ... is carrying out a deployment only 30km from where our border meets northern Iraq," Turkey's semi-official Anatolian news agency said. "Iran continues to deploy troops along its border with northern Iraq."

The London-based Iraqi opposition group Iraqi National Congress (INC) confirmed the deployments.

Around 15,000 troops, backed by air power, are taking part in the Turkish raid, the second major strike into Iraq this year.