ABOARD USS JOHN C. STENNIS Vice President Dick Cheney said on Friday the heightened U.S. military presence in the Gulf demonstrated Washington's resolve in a standoff with Iran over Tehran's nuclear plans.
"With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike," said Cheney on a visit to the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a close U.S. ally.
"We'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region," he said, speaking from a cavernous hangar bay. Stennis officials said 3,500 to 4,000 of the 5,000 personnel aboard were on hand.
Iran denies any intention to develop nuclear weapons but the United States and Israel have refused to rule out military action if diplomatic efforts to halt its civilian nuclear drive come to nothing. Iran also denies U.S. and British accusations that it is fuelling violence in Iraq,
"I want you to know that the American people do not support a policy of retreat. We want to complete the mission, get it done right, and return with honor," Cheney said, drawing cheers.
Cheney has said Iran would top his talks with Arab leaders during his regional visit.
"The (Iranians) are obviously a major source of concern not only for the United States but also for most of our friends in the area, who are worried when they see an Iranian government that appears to be operating in a threatening manner... So Iran is a big area of concern," Cheney told Fox News on Thursday.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is shadowing Cheney in the region and is due to visit the UAE on Saturday or Sunday, just after the vice president leaves.