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'No N warheads on board USS Nimitz'

india Updated: Jul 02, 2007 10:33 IST

IANS
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Officials on board the USS Nimitz, to be docked in Chennai on Monday, have for the first time said there are no nuclear warheads in the warship.

Senior officer on board Rear Admiral John Terence Blake told the visiting media on Sunday that Nimitz was "no longer providing support to ground forces" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The left parties in India are opposing the Nimitz visit because it was used in the Gulf to mount operations against countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and intimidate Iran and North Korea.

Commanding officer of the USS Nimitz Captain Michael C Manazir told the visiting reporters: "The ship is being monitored continuously ... In the last 32 years of its service, we have not come across any unpleasant incident."

"We guarantee you that you are in a safe environment", he said, adding that the ship's reactors were "well-shielded".

Apprehensions increased in Chennai following the refusal of the warship's senior officers, Manazir and Blake, to categorically deny that nuclear weapons were on board on Saturday.

But Sunday, as Nimitz drew closer to the Indian coast, the captain of the ship, Manazir said, "I am very confident about my ship."

"Anybody can test any water or any air outside the force protection zone", he added. This is about a kilometre all around the warship.

An Indian radiation monitoring vessel is being berthed about a km from the Nimitz to monitor radiation, if any, from the ship in Indian territorial waters.

The morale of the crew is very high, Manazir said, adding that they were looking forward to their visit to Chennai. It is the monsoon rain in Goa and Mumbai that has brought Nimitz to India's east coast.

The visitors are expected to be on land by on Monday evening.