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Iranian ships head for Med through Suez Canal


Two Iranian naval ships entered the Suez Canal on Tuesday for the first time since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Iran says it is a training exercise but Israel has denounced it as a provocation.



The boats, which received permission to pass through the canal after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, were heading for the Mediterranean. Transiting the strategic 163-kilometre waterway usually takes between 12 and 14 hours.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

The patrol frigate Alvand and support ship Kharg are reportedly bound for Syria, a destination that necessarily involves passing near Israel.

Egypt's official Mena news agency reports that in the request for the ships to transit the canal they were declared not to be carrying weapons or nuclear and chemical materials.

Iran's official Fars news agency says the 1,500-tonne Alvand is normally armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. And the larger 33,000-tonne Kharg has a crew of 250 and facilities for up to three helicopters.

Both ships were built in Britain during the 1970s for Iran, before the Islamic revolution.

Meanwhile, the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise transited the Suez Canal on 15 February, accompanied by the guided missile cruiser Leyte Gulf and combat support ship Arctic. It entered the Gulf of Aden three days later.

Israel and the US carried out a test of the Arrow anti-missile system on Tuesday.

The Israeli defence ministry says the Arrow system successfully detected, tracked and destroyed a ballistic missile with an interceptor missile.

The Arrow project is designed to counter strikes mainly from Iran.

Development of the system is now half-funded by the United States.


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