HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Canada says it will keep a naval frigate in the Mediterranean Sea through the end of 2012 as part of a NATO anti-terrorism mission in the region.
The HMCS Vancouver, which took part in NATO's air and sea campaign against the late Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya, is being reassigned to the alliance's Operation Active Endeavor, the counter-terrorism mission in the Mediterranean that began shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Postmedia News reported.
The Vancouver will be deployed in the Mediterranean until early 2012, when it will be replaced by the HMCS Charlottetown, which will remain in the region until the end of the year.
"Having a frigate in the Mediterranean, in my view, is a signal to our allies that Canada continues its leadership role on the world stage," Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay told reporters Sunday at the end of a three-day defense conference in Halifax.
MacKay said the frigates' main mission will be locating and boarding vessels with suspected links to terrorism but could play a role if the situation in Syria worsens.
"There's no question having a ship in the region in the event that Canadians need direct assistance or evacuation (from Syria) gives us that utility, gives us that capability to respond should certain things transpire," he said.
Syria was a big topic at the conference, with delegates criticizing Syrian President Bashar Assad's crackdown on demonstrators in an uprising in which the U.N. estimates 3,500 people have been killed since March.
But the conference yielded few specific ideas on how to stop the Syrian violence.