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ISMAILIA, Egypt, March 2 (Reuters) - Two U.S. amphibious assault ships, the Kearsarge and the Ponce, entered Egypt’s Suez Canal on Wednesday, on their way to the Mediterranean, a canal official said.
The ships were at the southern mouth of the canal, the official said, adding that they were expected to pass through by 3:30 p.m. (1330 GMT) or 4:00 p.m. (1400 GMT).
The USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce entered accompanied by tugs to secure their passage, the canal official said.
The United States had said on Monday it was moving ships and planes closer to Libya, where a revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule is under way. The Kearsarge can carry 2,000 Marines.
The repositioning of U.S. ships and aircraft closer to Libya is widely seen as a symbolic show of force since neither the United States nor its NATO allies have shown any appetite for direct military intervention in the turmoil that has seen Gaddafi lose control of big swathes of the North African state.
On Monday the USS Barry, a destroyer, moved through the Suez Canal and was now in the southwestern Mediterranean.
The White House said ships were being redeployed in preparation for possible humanitarian efforts. But it stressed it “was not taking any options off the table” — diplomatic language that signals military action is still a possibility.
But beyond flexing military muscle and freezing a record $30 billion in Libyan assets, Washington has limited influence on events inside Libya. Republican lawmakers and others have pressed President Barack Obama to do more militarily, but they have focused mainly on imposing a “no-fly” zone.