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Iranian warships dock in Syria

JTA

February 24, 2011 | 10:17 am

Two Iranian warships that passed through the Suez Canal reportedly docked in Syria.

The ships, a frigate and a supply ship, arrived at Syria’s main port at Latakia on Wednesday night after becoming the first Iranian naval ships to pass through the canal since the 1979 revolution.

The ships “carry the message of peace and friendship to world countries,” Iran’s Navy chief, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, said Thursday on Iranian state television, according to reports.

“The Zionist regime had been exaggerating this issue because it wants to create tension among the brotherly relations between countries in the region,” Sayyari said.

The Egyptian Defense Ministry gave permission for the ships to pass through the Suez Canal. They are expected to return to Iran at the beginning of March.

Iran’s sending ships to Syria as uprisings take place across the Middle East was a show of power, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN on Thursday. Sending the ships was an Iranian attempt to assert power in the region, he added.

“I don’t like it, but I don’t think that any one of us should be worried by it,” Barak said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the week that his government took a “grave view” of Iran’s plan send the warships.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had announced Feb. 16 that the ships were en route to Syria via the Suez Canal. His statement called the move a recurring Iranian “provocation” and suggested that Israel would not ignore Iran’s actions.

“The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations,” he said.

According to international rules governing navigation through the Suez Canal, no vessel can be denied passage unless it is at war with Egypt.

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