Iranian warships in Mediterranean Sea amid U.S., Israeli concerns

08:25, February 24, 2011      

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As the two Iranian warships entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal late Tuesday, the United States and Israel expressed their deep concerns over Iran's move.

According to a statement released by the Public Relations Office of the Iranian Army on Wednesday, this is the first time in three decades for the Islamic Republic of Iran to send its ships to the Mediterranean Sea through this strategic waterway.

The Iranian vessels entered waters of the Mediterranean Sea on a training mission with a message of peace and friendship for all the regional and Muslim states on their way, the statement was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying.

The ships are heading for the port of Lazeqiyeh in west Syria within the framework of brotherly meetings between the two countries, said IRNA.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said Wednesday the move by Iran was a "political provocation."

Earlier, Israel said it took a "grave view" of the warships' passage through the Suez Canal and described Iran's plans to send the ships through the canal to Syria as "provocative."

A senior Iranian army commander said Wednesday that Israel had been outraged by the passage of the warships through the Suez Canal and was spreading propaganda over the issue.

"The Zionist regime (of Israel) was shocked by the presence of Iran's naval ships in the Suez Canal and this is the reason why the regime has made propaganda in this regard over recent days," Iran's Deputy Army Commander Brigadier General Abdul-Rahim Mousavi was quoted as saying by the local satellite Press TV.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Tuesday expressed the U.S. concern over Iran's presence in the Mediterranean Sea, saying the U.S. was watching the activities of Iranian warships in the Sea "carefully".

The two Iranian ships, 1,500-ton patrol frigate Alvand and 33, 000-ton support ship Khark, passed through Egypt's Suez Canal en route to Syria Tuesday morning, and entered the Mediterranean Sea late on the day.

An official at the Suez Canal told Xinhua the two ships are to land in Syria through the Mediterranean Sea.

Alvand is armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while Khark has 250 crew members and can carry three helicopters.

Mousavi said Iran has constantly made efforts to increase its military capabilities. "Today, Iran's army is among the strongest armies in the region and the world," he said.

Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said Tuesday that Iran's Navy was ready to protect water borders in the north and south of the country, adding that Iran dispatched ships to Oman Sea, Aden Gulf and west of India last week and this showed Iranian Navy's high abilities, IRNA reported Wednesday.

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