Iran says its warships have left the Mediterranean

Two Iranian warships, which entered the Mediterranean last month, have passed into the Red Sea.

Updated: Mar 05, 2011, 19:14 PM IST

Tehran: Two Iranian warships, which
entered the Mediterranean last month sparking an outcry from
Israel, have passed through the Suez Canal back into the Red
Sea, naval commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari said on Saturday.

"The flotilla... has completed its mission
successfully in the Mediterranean Sea and has returned to the
Red Sea transiting through the Suez Canal," the official news
agency IRNA quoted Sayari as saying.

It was the first time since the 1979 Islamic
revolution that Iranian warships had entered the Mediterranean
and Iran`s archfoe Israel described the move as a "political

The frigate Alvand and supply ship Kharg passed
through the Suez Canal on February 22 and docked two days
later at the Syrian port of Latakia.

Sayari did not say when the warships began their
return journey, but said it took them "10-12 hours to transit"
the canal.

He said the flotilla conveyed a message of "peace and
friendship to friendly countries" and showed that "the Zionist
regime and other enemies could not take any actions against us

Israel, which considers Iran its biggest threat after
repeated predictions by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of its
demise, put its navy on alert during the flotilla`s mission.

Sayari said the Israelis had contacted the warships
and asked them to identify themselves, the Fars news agency
reported, adding that he hailed it as evidence that the
deployment had "worried and frightened the Zionist regime."

"The Zionist regime`s naval stations sent out a
message to our dispatched flotilla to communicate and identify
ourselves, but we responded by saying that `this is none of
your business and shut up`," the Iranian commander said.

Analysts say the port visit by the two ships to close
ally Syria was an attempt by Iran to project its clout at a
time when anti-government protests sweeping the Arab world
from Casablanca to Cairo are shifting the regional balance of

The Suez Canal Authority said last month that ships of
any nationality can pass through "as long as the country is
not in a state of war with Egypt."