International

Israel Claims Iranian War Ships Set To Cross Suez Canal

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed today that Iran is about to send two war ships across the Suez Canal in Egypt. The ships, he said, are on their way to Syria. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports:

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley says he's aware of the reports but has no information whether these are war ships or where they're heading.

"There are reports that there are a couple of ships in the red sea," says Crowley. "What they do, where they go, we'll follow this with some curiosity."

Israel's foreign minister calls it a provocation by Iran. Egyptian officials who oversee the Suez Canal say countries need to seek approval to send warships through and Iran has not filed any such requests.

The BBC reports that Tehran has stayed silent on the matter. They add:

Reports last month said Iran's navy planned to send a "fleet" to the Mediterranean Sea for a year.

"During the mission, the fleet of warships will enter the waters of the Red Sea and then will be dispatched to the Mediterranean Sea," Lieutenant Commander Rear Admiral Gholam Reza Khadem-Bigham was quoted as saying in January by the semi-official Fars news agency.

According to CNN money the price of crude oil for delivery in March jumped as much as 1.2 percent after the news. The AP, however, adds a bit of caution to Liberman's comments:

Lieberman is known for his extreme pronouncements. Israel has been distributing dire predictions about the destabilization of the Middle East in the wake of the toppling of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, warning that Islamic militants could take over. Most experts play down that prospect.

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