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U.S. warships in Gulf for training

Story Highlights

• 2 U.S. aircraft carriers and seven other warships cruised near the Iranian coast
• One of largest, most visible war games in Persian Gulf since start of Iraq war
• U.S. Navy officials said Iran not told of plans to sail through Strait of Hormuz
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ABOARD USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CNN) -- In one of the largest, most visible war games America has staged in the Persian Gulf since the start of the Iraq war, two U.S. aircraft carriers and seven other warships cruised near the Iranian coast Wednesday.

The admiral leading the fleet through the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel in international waters off Iran's coast and a major artery for global oil shipments, said he hoped Iran did not get the wrong idea about America's intentions.

"I hope they don't get a message -- a wrong message -- and we certainly don't want any miscalculation on anybody's part on what we are doing," Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn told CNN's Caroline Faraj on Tuesday.

The Navy's show of force is meant to "set the conditions for stability and security in the region and to keep the sea links of communications open for the free flow of commerce," Quinn said.

U.S. Navy officials said Iran was not told of plans to sail the vessels through the strait. Most U.S. ships travel through at night to avoid attracting attention, and rarely in such large numbers.

The group of ships, carrying about 17,000 personnel, crossed at roughly 0355 GMT on Wednesday, Reuters said.

If the passageway was closed or a conflict sparked in the area "the shipping rates will go sky high, the flow of economic goods in and out the of the Gulf will be impacted and it could have an impact on the economies of the region and the whole world," Quinn said.

The admiral downplayed the idea that this operation was strategically planned to overshadow scheduled meetings next week in Baghdad between Iran and the United States regarding the Iraq war.

"I don't know of any linkage at all between what we are doing (Wednesday), which is moving inside the Gulf to conduct some training operations, and that meeting," he said.

And a U.S. Navy statement issued Tuesday echoed Quinn's message.

"The timing of this exercise is determined by the availability of forces and is not connected to events in the region," the statement said. "The exercise is not directed against any nation."

U.S. Navy officials told Reuters the decision to send a second aircraft carrier was made at the last minute, without giving a reason.

The expanded U.S. military presence in the Gulf also coincides with Wednesday's scheduled release of a report on Tehran nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Two weeks ago U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking on board the Stennis during a tour of the Gulf, said the United States would stand with others to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapons and "dominating the region."

CNN's Caroline Faraj contributed to this report.

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The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis was visited by Dick Cheney in May.

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