Syria-bound Iranian warships stop in Red Sea


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Iranian warships bound for Syria withdrew a request to sail through the Suez Canal. 

The ships stopped Thursday in an area near the Saudi Arabian Red Sea port city of Jiddah after reportedly withdrawing the request. Other reports suggested that the ships never requested permission to cross through the canal.

But the Iranian Press TV quoted an Iranian Navy official as saying that Egyptian authorities saw no reason why the ships could not pass through the canal.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had announced Wednesday night 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.

In a conference call Wednesday on new Iran sanctions, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Iran’s move was legal but "very provocative."

According to international rules governing navigation through the Suez Canal, no vessel can be denied passage unless it is at war with Egypt. Prior approval must come from the Ministry of Defense, and ships must give at least 24 hours notice before crossing.

Iran may believe it is able to cross the canal now that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been deposed.

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