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US eyes military alliance off Iran, Yemen

US Marine General Joseph Dunford wants a military coalition to safeguard waters off Iran and Yemen. (AAP)

US is hoping to enlist allies over the next two weeks for a military coalition to safeguard the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab.

The United States hopes to enlist allies over the next two weeks or so in a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks.

Under the plan, which has only been finalised in recent days, the US would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts for the military coalition, the top US general has said.

Allies would patrol waters near those US command ships and escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, articulated those details to reporters following meetings on Tuesday about it with acting US Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"We're engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab," Dunford said.

"And so I think probably over the next couple of weeks we'll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we'll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities that'll support that."

Iran has long threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world's oil passes, if it was unable to export its oil, something US President Donald Trump's administration has sought as a way to pressure Tehran to renegotiate a deal on its nuclear program.

But the USproposal for an international coalition to safeguard shipping in the Strait, at the mouth of the Gulf, has been gaining momentum since attacks in May and June against oil tankers in Gulf waters.

Last month, Iran shot down a US drone near the Strait, prompting President Donald Trump to order retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off.

Dunford said the United States would provide "command and control" ships but said the goal would be for other countries to provide vessels to patrol waters between those command ships.

Dunford said the size of the campaign could be adjusted based on the number of countries that commit to it.

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