Hezbollah slams US warship as ‘interference’ in Lebanon
The pro-Syrian Hezbollah on Friday slammed Washington’s dispatch of the USS Cole to waters off Lebanon as military interference, as the Western-backed government said it did not ask for the warship to be sent.
The condemnation came as pro-government dailies saw sending the vessel as a clear signal to Syria, which is being blamed by the ruling majority for blocking a presidential vote in Beirut.
“This decision proves that it’s the United States which is interfering in Lebanese affairs, and that this interference has taken on a military slant,” Hezbollah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan told AFP.
The United States said on Thursday it had sent the guided-missile destroyer to the waters off Lebanon, which has been embroiled in a paralysing political crisis for months.
It is “a show of support for regional stability” because of “concern about the situation in Lebanon,” a US official said on condition of anonymity, declining to say that the show of force was meant for Syria or Iran.
Congress eyes Navy shipbuilding programs
Congressional scrutiny of the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding programs is likely to continue to be sharp, if the new budget season’s first two naval hearings are any indication.
On Wednesday, House Appropriations Defense subcommittee chairman Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., signaled a possible lack of support for the new Zumwalt class DDG 1000 destroyer program when he asked about the effects of delaying the 2009 ship in favor of more auxiliary cargo ships. Murtha later said he’d like to examine cutting short the planned buy of seven Zumwalts and moving up acquisition of the follow-on CG(X) cruiser, now scheduled to begin in 2011.
As he did last year, Murtha also declared his intention to buy the Navy 10 ships this year rather than the seven the service is asking for. Construction of an additional, tenth, ship of the San Antonio LPD 17 class also is a goal, he said.
Cost growth, Murtha cautioned, remains a serious issue for the service’s 313-ship fleet plan.
That concern was echoed Thursday during the Senate Armed Service Committee’s posture hearing on the Navy Department’s $149.3 billion 2009 budget request. Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., reiterated his apprehensions about “cost problems in the shipbuilding arena, most notably with the Littoral Combat Ship program.”
Japan Defense Minister Says He Won’t Quit `Now’ Over Collision
Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said he won’t resign “at this point” over his handling of a collision between a navy destroyer and a fishing boat.
“I will make my own judgment,” he told the lower house of parliament’s budget committee today when asked if he might quit after an investigation into the cause of the accident.
Opposition leaders, who successfully called for the resignations of former prime minister Shinzo Abe and five of his ministers, have demanded Ishiba’s departure over the Feb. 19 collision which left two fishermen missing. The Democratic Party of Japan hopes to force Abe’s successor Yasuo Fukuda to call early elections.
“There will be an enormous impact on the Fukuda administration” if Ishiba resigns, Takao Toshikawa, chief editor of the political newsletter Tokyo Insideline, said in a telephone interview. “Fukuda will become a lame duck.”
Navy Vessel Made From Twin Towers
When the Navy’s newest ship, the USS New York, is christened this weekend, it will serve as a memorial of Sept. 11, 2001 in more then just name. The leading edge of its bow is made from steel girders salvaged from the ruins of the World Trade Center.
In 2002, the Navy decided to honor New York state, New York City and the victims of 9/11 by naming a soon-to-be-built amphibious vessel the USS New York.
In a further act of symbolism, 7.5 tons of steel I-beams salvaged from the World Trade Center wreckage were melted and formed to make the ship’s “bow stem,” the leading edge of the ship that connects the bow to the hull.
The USS New York is the fifth ship of the Navy’s new San Antonio class of amphibious ships that will be able to carry a landing force of 800 marines, aircraft and landing equipment. The ship will carry a crew of 360 sailors.
Germany hands over maritime command in Lebanon to Italians
Germany has handed over the command of a United Nations marine mission patrolling the Lebanese coast. German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung attended the ceremony onboard a German navy ship that marked the handover to Italy. Germany was the lead nation in the UNIFIL mission for 17 months. The maritime task force was created under a UN resolution to end a month-long conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants based in Lebanon in 2006.
‘No Plans to Shut Devonport’
Controversial claims that the Westcountry’s historic naval base is to close in five years have been dismissed as “ill-informed” and “inaccurate” by the commander of the Plymouth facility.
With the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) backing, Commodore Simon Lister yesterday moved to “allay public concerns” by insisting that the Government had no plans to shut Devonport, Britain’s oldest naval base.
He condemned claims made by senior defence sources that the city’s nuclear capabilities were soon to be “irrelevant”, and pointed to a workload at the naval base and neighbouring dockyard that could stretch to the end of the next decade and beyond.
Cdre Lister said: “I’m really quite concerned that some of the speculation that is going on is inaccurate and concerning unduly our workforce, the workforce at Babcock (owner of the dockyard) and the city. At a time of change, when review work is still going on about the future distribution of some of the work, it is perfectly possible for people to conjecture about what the outcome might be.
“The problem is that whoever the source is, is ill-informed on the fundamentals and has drawn conclusions that are inaccurate and unhelpful.”