Kitty Hawk, Nimitz To Guard Mediterranean, Sources Say
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Reagan administration has directed that two aircraft carriers, the Kitty Hawk and the Nimitz, will patrol the Mediterranean Sea for an indefinite time, informed sources say.
The carrier Kitty Hawk, now on patrol in the Indian Ocean, will move to the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal in early March to relieve the carrier Kennedy, whose departure from the region was delayed last month, said the sources who agreed to discuss the matter only if not identified.
A naval buildup in the Meditierranean began more than two weeks ago in response to rising tensions in the Middle East and a new wave of hostage- taking in Lebanon.
The Pentagon reduced the battle group slightly last week to defuse rumors that it planned a military strike against Lebanon. But the United States still has two carriers and a Marine amphibious group of 1,900 men in the eastern Mediterranean.
Besides the Kennedy, the battle group includes the Nimitz and roughly 20 other ships.
Pentagon and White House spokesmen have insisted repeatedly that the naval force was fortified as a precaution and that no military strike in Lebanon is planned.
Pentagon sources have added that the force is there primarily in case President Reagan wanted to order a response to any hostage executions.
The Pentagon sources said the Kennedy remained at sea on Friday, conducting a routine patrol off the coast of Lebanon. The sources added the Nimitz was also at sea, but had been authorized to begin a port call this weekend in Alexandria, Egypt.