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Egypt - Iran - Israel

Israel concerned as Iran sends warships to Suez Canal

AFP

Two Iranian warships advanced toward the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal on Sunday, following Egypt granting permission for their passage to Syria. Israel viewed the dispatch of the two ships with "gravity".

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An Iranian television broadcast reported the ships were already in the Mediterranean on Sunday, but a senior Suez Canal official denied they had passed.

"No Iranian ships have passed. Not today, not yesterday, not the day before," the head of the canal's operations room, Ahmed al-Manakhly, said on Sunday.

Manakhly did not say when the Iranian ships were scheduled to arrive.

The request for passage claimed the ships were not carrying weapons, or nuclear or chemical materials, Egypt's MENA news agency reported.

The passage prompted criticism from Israel, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling it a "provocation".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of taking advantage of regional unrest to engage in a power play.

"Today we are witnessing the instability of the region in which we live and in which Iran is trying to profit by extending its influence by dispatching two warships to cross the Suez Canal," he said, according to a statement released by his office.

Egypt's permission for the ships to pass marks the first time Iranian warships have done so since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

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