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Australia considers U.S. request to patrol Strait of Hormuz

Christian Fernsby |
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told reporters on Monday that he would consider joining an international effort to make shipping lanes "safer" in the Strait of Hormuz.

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"It's important that we make the Strait of Hormuz safer than they currently are," he said.

"So the government is carefully considering this issue but I think it's very important to separate this particular initiative from the broader issues of any tensions that relate to Iran on other matters, particularly on nuclear proliferation."

"This is about safe shipping lanes which is good for global peace and these are not uncommon activities for Australia or others to be engaged in."

With tensions flaring in the Gulf region in recent months after two Saudi-linked oil tankers were bombed with limpet mines, the situation deteriorated even further in July when a British-flagged ship and its crew were seized by Iranian forces.

Now, new reports from Iranian media claimed on Sunday that its military has seized two more ships from neighbouring Arab States.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was in Sydney on Sunday for a whirlwind visit to Australia broached the subject with Morrison and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

"The purpose here is to de-escalate tensions, not to escalate them, and that has very much been the focus of the conversations we've had with our American partners over the last few days," Morrison said.

"The task is about providing freedom of shipping lanes in this very important part of the world and to ensure that any effort that we're engaged ... is part of an international effort," he added.

"That's what Australia would be considering and that would be our motive if we engage in any of those operations."

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