Mon. 9:06 a.m.: US envoy for Iran seeks better maritime security

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, meets with King Salman, right, today at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Pompeo is conducting consultations during a short tour of the Middle East, including visits to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. special envoy for Iran says the United States wants international partners to join forces to increase maritime security in the Persian Gulf.

The remarks today by envoy Brian Hook come as the U.S. tries to build a global coalition against Iran amid escalating tensions in the region.

Hook told reporters that one option could be to “enhance” an existing multinational maritime force in the region involving about 30 countries that currently fights drug and arms smuggling.

Alternatively, he said allied nations with commercial interests in the oil-rich region could launch an all-new maritime security initiative.

He wouldn’t elaborate, saying only: “There is a lot of interest in finding a new initiative to enhance maritime security which we think is something we could internationalize.”

He said the U.S. will discuss options at the Group of 20 summit in Japan this week, though it’s unclear which and whether other countries are likely to back the initiative.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met with Saudi King Salman and separately with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the escalated crisis in the Persian Gulf.

Pompeo arrived in the Saudi city of Jiddah earlier today in a hastily arranged visit amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran as Iran’s navy chief warned Iranian forces wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down more U.S. surveillance drones from their skies.

Pompeo was greeted upon his arrival in Jiddah by new U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid and Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf.

Before departing, Pompeo said he’d be talking to officials in the Persian Gulf as well as Asia and Europe as he sets out to build an international coalition against Iran.

While Pompeo said the U.S. is prepared to negotiate with Iran, he also said new U.S. sanctions against Iran are to be announced today.

The U.S. Navy says another American warship has arrived to the Mideast amid heightened tensions with Iran.

Today’s Navy statement says the USS Boxer amphibious assault ship, along with the amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry arrived in the 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility.

The Navy didn’t elaborate on where the ships were.

The Bahrain-based 5th Fleet oversees the Navy’s presence in the Persian Gulf and surrounding Mideast waters.

The USS Boxer carries the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well as a combat helicopter squadron. It came from the Indian Ocean after leaving San Diego on May 1. The Boxer’s group replaces that of the USS Kearsarge.

Already, the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and accompanying vessels are in the region. It was rushed to the region in May by the White House over what it described at the time as threats from Iran.

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