USS Ponce and USS Kearsarge get closer to Libya
Two U.S. amphibious warships, the USS Ponce and the USS Kearsarge, passed through Egypt's Suez Canal on Wednesday and arrived in the Mediterranean, a canal official said. The officials said the USS Kearsarge is carrying 42 helicopters.
The United States had said on Monday it was moving ships and planes closer to Libya. The arrival of the warships came as forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi moved to recapture control of Brega, a key oil port in eastern Libya, and reverse the tide of an opposition uprising.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the ships, along with an extra 400 Marines, would be ready to give humanitarian relief and perform emergency evacuations from Libya.
The USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce entered accompanied by tugs to secure their passage, the canal official also said. Helicopters can take off from and land on the Kearsarge.
Even as warships got closer to Libya, U.S. defense leaders expressed caution Tuesday about military intervention, warning that enforcement of a no-fly zone would require scarce air assets, domestic political approval and international authorization.
Foreign leaders, and some U.S. officials, have said a no-fly zone is under active consideration, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the Pentagon was preparing "a lot of options and contingencies" for President Obama.
But Gates said military measures could have indirect consequences that "need to be considered very carefully." He suggested any intervention in Libya could drain U.S. forces from the war in Afghanistan and questioned the wisdom of the United States engaging in military action in another Muslim country.
| March 2, 2011; 10:07 AM ET
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