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Thursday, February 24, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Iranian warships in Mediterranean for first time since 1979

NICOSIA — For the first time since 1979, the Iranian Navy has begun operations in the Mediterranean Sea.

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Officials said two Iranian warships crossed the Suez Canal and reached Syria. They said the Navy vessels — a frigate and support ship — would participate in an exercise with Syria.

"This is a very important achievement," an official said.


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The two Iranian Navy vessels, identified as Alvand and Khark — arrived in the Syrian port of Latakia on Feb. 24. Latakia also contains the Russian Navy, which has sought to expand the port for larger vessels.

Iranian Navy commander Adm. Habibollah Sayari arrived in Syria for the greeting ceremony. Sayari said the Iranian warships were not meant to threaten anybody in the region.

"They are a peaceful message to all nations," Sayari said.

Officials said the two Iranian warships contained weapons. They said Khark, with a crew of 250, was designed to accommodate three helicopters. Alvand, the frigate, was said to contain both anti-ship and air defense missiles.

The Iranian Navy mission was facilitated by Egypt. Officials said Egypt, despite Israeli objection, allowed the two Iranian ships to cross the Suez Canal on Feb. 22.



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