Aid-Loaded U.S. Destroyer Heads to Black Sea

The guided-missile destroyer McFaul departed from Crete on Aug. 20 loaded with humanitarian relief supplies for war-torn Georgia, a U.S. defense official said.

"It's going into the Black Sea, and the intent is for it to be able to deliver those (supplies) in the next week," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

 "This is intended to be for humanitarian purposes," the defense official said.

Sending the warship into the Black Sea, albeit on a humanitarian mission, would mark the first projection of armed U.S. military power into the region since the start of the conflict between Russia and Georgia on Aug. 7.

The U.S. military has delivered humanitarian aid since last week aboard unarmed military transport planes.

The McFaul will be joined by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas, which is taking on supplies in Souda Bay, Crete and is scheduled to depart in a few days for the Black Sea, the defense official said.

The Mount Whitney, the flagship of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, also was ready to go if ordered but at this point was not going, the official said.

The State Department earlier said Turkey had approved transit for two U.S. Navy ships and the Coast Guard cutter through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.

The McFaul had been previously scheduled to make a routine visit to Black Sea ports, which already had been approved by the Turkish government, the defense official said.

"We routinely go into the Black Sea," said the official. "It is one of the places we go to conduct military-to-military activities with the Black Sea nations."

[Source: Defense News, AFP, Washington, 20Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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