Iranian warships' passage through Suez put back two days

Iranian warships' passage through Suez put back two days

"The shipping agent handling the two Iranian warships has told the canal administration to push back their passage by two days," the official told AFP yesterday on condition of anonymity.

He did not elaborate on the reasons for the delay, but confirmed that the new day of passage through the waterway that links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea would be Wednesday.

Reportedly bound for Syria on a journey that would necessarily involve passing Israel, the patrol frigate Alvand and support ship Kharg would be the first Iranian warships through Suez since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Officials at the Egyptian-run canal had previously said privately that they expected the two ships to pass on today, just days after the US aircraft carrier Enterprise steamed through Suez in the opposite direction.

In the wake of president Hosni Mubarak's ouster on February 11, Egypt gave its green light on Friday for the Iranian warships to transit the canal into the Mediterranean.

Egypt's official MENA news agency has reported that the request for the ships to transit the Suez Canal said they were not carrying weapons or nuclear and chemical materials.

The 1,500-tonne Alvand is normally armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while the larger 33,000-tonne Kharg has a crew of 250 and facilities for up to three helicopters, Iran's official Fars news agency has said.