Egypt to let Iranian vessels through Suez Canal
CAIRO – State media say Egypt has agreed to let two Iranian naval vessels transit the Suez Canal, a move that comes despite expressions of concern by Israeli officials.
State-run news agency MENA said Friday that authorities approved a request from Iranian diplomats who offered assurances that the two ships won't have weapons or nuclear or chemical material.
The move had been widely expected and Iranian officials have insisted the request is in line with international regulations. They say the two vessels are headed to Syria for training.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Defense Ministry is reviewing a request of two Iranian naval vessels to transit the Suez Canal, Egypt's state TV said Friday, after Israel's foreign minister labeled the attempted passage a provocation.
Iranian officials said the request is in line with international regulations.
It is believed to be the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iranian warships are attempting to pass through the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
Iranian officials have said the two vessels, currently in international waters, are headed to Syria for training.
There had been contradictory reports on whether Egyptian authorities are considering the request, but state TV said Friday the Defense Ministry is reviewing the case.
Egypt has been run by an army-led transition government since last week's ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising. Iran's request could pose the first diplomatic dilemma for Egypt's new rulers.
A Suez Canal official said Egypt can only deny transit through the waterway in case of war.
Earlier this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Iran's attempt to send warships through the canal is a provocation.
Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110218/ap_ ... n_warships