Two Iranian warships cross Suez Canal

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TEHRAN - Two Iranian battleships, headed towards Syria for a training mission, have crossed the Suez Canal - controlled by Egypt - for the first time since 1979, media reports said.

The ships are the Kharg, a 33,000-tonne refuelling and support vessel, and the Alvand, a 1,500-tonne light patrol frigate, Mehr news quoted Al Alam TV network as reporting.

The Kharg has a crew of 250 and can carry up to three helicopters while the Alvand is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

The warships are sailing towards a harbour in Syria’s coastal waters, the TV network stated.

A BBC report quoted Iranian officials as saying that the warships were headed to Syria for training, a mission that Israel views as a “provocation”.

The Iranian warships have entered the Suez Canal to make a passage to the Mediterranean Sea, the report added canal officials as saying.

Egypt had previously approved the passage of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal.

Israel has said it takes a “grave view” of the passage. Iran and Israel have long been each other’s arch foe, Xinhua reported.

Iran’s Navy has announced that dispatching Iranian vessels to the Mediterranean is aimed at strengthening friendly relations with other countries and conveying Iran’s message of peace and security in international waterways, Iran’s State run Press TV reported.

It marks the first occasion since the victory of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iranian warships have been allowed to use the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia.

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