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US, UK and France navies hold anti-mine exercise off Bahrain coast Open in fullscreen

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US, UK and France navies hold anti-mine exercise off Bahrain coast

The exercise is "purely defensive" [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 April, 2019

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The American, British and French navies launched anti-mine drills off Bahrain amid continued tensions with Iran.

The US, UK and French navies have started anti-mine drills off Bahrain's coast amid continued tensions with nearby Iran, a military spokeswoman confirmed.

"As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, the US, France and United Kingdom are dedicated to conducting tactical training to counter the risk of mines in order to support the continued free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation in this critical region," Lieutenant Chloe Morgan, a spokesperson for the US Navy, told AFP on Monday.

Morgan, of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, insists that the exercise is "purely defensive".

The small kingdom of Bahrain, allied with Saudi Arabia, a major political and economic player in the region, is located in the waters between Saudi Arabia and its arch foe Iran.

Bahrain is also home to a permanent British military base.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Shia-dominated Iran have a long-lasting rivalry based as much in geostrategic interests as religious differences.

Facing off across the Gulf, the two major oil producers have taken opposing sides for decades in conflicts across the region.

Riyadh severed its diplomatic relations with Iran in 2016 in protest at the torching of its embassy in Tehran by Iranian protesters, angered by the execution of Shia Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province.

The Trump administration has maintained a close relationship with the Saudi leadership, despite increasing opposition over the high civilian toll from the kingdom's military intervention in neighbouring Yemen and the murder of US-based Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.

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