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Spain recalls frigate from US Navy strike group over Gulf tensions

Spain has recalled a frigate accompanying a U.S. aircraft carrier to the Middle East because of rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, the defense ministry said Tuesday, May 14.

“For the moment the frigate Mendez Nunez has left the combat group of the USS Abraham Lincoln,” a ministry spokesperson told AFP, confirming a report in the Spanish daily El Pais.

“It’s a temporary withdrawal, decided by Defense Minister Margarita Robles, as long as the American aircraft carrier is in this zone,” the spokesman added.

He said the Spanish frigate had joined the aircraft carrier’s strike group for a military exercise.

“No possible confrontation or warlike action is envisaged [by Spain] and it is for this reason that the participation is suspended for the moment,” he added.

On May 5, the White House announced it was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East, claiming a “credible threat” from Iran.

Last Friday, the Pentagon announced the deployment of the amphibious assault ship the USS Arlington and a Patriot missile battery to the region.

Washington reiterated that intelligence reports suggested Iran was planning some sort of attack in the region.

Robles later told reporters in Brussels that the U.S. decision to deploy the aircraft carrier to the Gulf “went beyond what was scheduled in the terms of a cooperation agreement that placed the Mendez Nunez frigate with the U.S. fleet for training.

“This is not a problem of discrepancies with Iran or … It’s a question of interpretation of a techno-military agreement,” she added.

The Spanish frigate is currently in Mumbai, the minister said.

On Sunday and Monday, U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said oil tankers belonging to them were damaged in “sabotage attacks” in the Gulf. Neither country released details.

No link has officially been drawn between the incidents and U.S. accusations concerning “imminent” attacks by Tehran against American interests in the region.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom on Monday urged the U.S. not to further escalate tensions over the Iran nuclear deal.

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With reporting from AFP

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