The US Navy is sending three warships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a show of strength during a period of tensions with Syria and political uncertainty in Lebanon. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the deployment should not be viewed as threatening or in response to events in any single country in that volatile region. "This is an area that is important to us, the eastern Med," he said when asked about news reports of the ship movements. "It's a group of ships that will operate in the vicinity there for a while," adding that "it isn't meant to send any stronger signals than that, but it does signal that we're engaged, we're going to be in the vicinity and that's a very, very important part of the world." Another military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because full details about the ship movements are not yet public, said the USS Cole is headed for patrol in the eastern Mediterranean and that the USS Nassau, an amphibious warship, would be joining it shortly. The officer said a third ship would go later, but he did not identify it by name.