Iran aid ships for Gaza awaiting ministry nod

Iranian Red Crescent has organised two aid ships for Gaza.

Tehran: An Iranian Red Crescent official said in a report on Sunday that two aid ships organised by the humanitarian group were ready and awaiting Foreign Ministry approval to leave for Gaza.

"We are ready but are awaiting permission from the Foreign Ministry given the political, military and security conditions in the region," Mojtaba Majd, a senior Red Crescent official, was quoted as telling Mehr news agency.

Separately, the Red Crescent said that of the two ships, the one carrying foodstuffs and medicines was expected to leave this week.

Majd said more than 100,000 Iranians have registered to go to Gaza as volunteers on the second ship, but added only those "who have some expertise" would be sent to the Palestinian territory.

He said, however, that volunteers may not even be sent given the conditions in the region, while adding that "the important issue is that the people of Gaza know that more than 100,000 Iranians are ready to come to their help."

The Iranian Red Crescent said on Monday it would send a total of three aid ships to Gaza, two of them by Friday and one at a later date, in what is seen as an attempt to break the blockade imposed on the territory by Israel.

It said it will also send a plane carrying 30 tonnes of medical equipment to Egypt for onward delivery to Gaza. The fate of the aid plane was unknown on Sunday.

The Iranian Red Crescent had previously sent an aid ship carrying food and medicines to Gaza in December 2008 but it was prevented from reaching the territory by the Israeli Navy.

Iran`s decision to send new aid came after an Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead sparked outrage across the political spectrum in Tehran.

The animosity between Iran and its regional archfoe Israel has only worsened under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with top Iranian commanders repeatedly boasting Tehran has missiles capable of reaching any Israeli target.

In turn, Israel, which has the Middle East`s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, has refused to rule out a resort to military action against Iran to prevent it acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran denies any such ambition.

Bureau Report

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