Middle East News
Lebanon: Iran vessels' passage through Suez canal delayed
Feb 21, 2011, 11:15 GMT
Beirut - Stormy weather off the coast of Syria has delayed the passage of two Iranian naval ships through the Suez Canal, a Lebanese security official said Monday.
The official, who asked not to be named, said shipping agents had informed Egyptian authorities that the vessels were unlikely to reach the Mediterranean Sea until Wednesday at the earliest, two days later than scheduled.
'The stormy weather prevailing near the Lebanese and Syrian coast is part of the reason for the delay,' the official told the German Press Agency dpa.
Lebanese coast guards are monitoring the stretch of sea between the Suez Canal and Syria, where the ships are believed to be heading.
The patrol frigate Alvand and support ship Kharg would be the first Iranian warships to pass through Suez since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Their presence has sparked concern in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of exploiting the Middle East unrest to increase its influence in the region.
Egypt gave the green light for the Iranian warships to transit through the canal shortly after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, earlier this month.
According to Iran's official Fars news agency, the 1,500-tonne Alvand is normally equipped with anti-ship missiles, while the larger 33,000-tonne Kharg has a crew of 250 and can carry up to three helicopters.
However, Israeli officials have ruled out that the vessels may be carrying arms shipments to Syria or Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
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