WASHINGTON (AP) - A published report says the Pentagon has approved a broader range of secret military operations against militant groups.

The New York Times reports Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S.
Central Command, has authorized Special Operations troops to conduct surveillance missions in such countries as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Somalia.

The document says the goals are to "penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy" militant groups, including al-Qaida, and "prepare the environment" for future attacks. The Times reports the document does not authorize offensive action.

Anonymous U.S. officials cited by the Times said the order does
allow for intelligence-gathering missions in Iran. That could lay the groundwork for possible military action if tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to rise.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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