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MIDEAST > Iran navy plans fresh deployment to Med

TEHRAN / MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse

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A Ghader missile is launched near the Iranian port of Jask on the shore of the Gulf
of Oman during a recent drill. Tehran plans to send a navy to Mediterranean. AP photo

A Ghader missile is launched near the Iranian port of Jask on the shore of the Gulf of Oman during a recent drill. Tehran plans to send a navy to Mediterranean. AP photo

Iran plans to dispatch a small naval fleet to the Mediterranean in line with its intention of boosting its presence in international waters, its navy chief was cited by the media yesterday as saying. The deployment will mark Iran’s third mission since the 1979 Islamic revolution to the Mediterranean. Iranian warships docked at Syrian ports in 2011 and 2012.

 The fleet will go through “the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab al-Mandeb, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and then into the Mediterranean Sea in a three-month mission,” navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari told the Fars news agency. He said the fleet, whose composition was not given, would leave in “the coming days.”

It was unclear whether the fleet would visit ports in Iran’s regional ally Syria. U.S. officials accuse Iran of providing Syria with arms and military advisers.

In February 2011, two Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, sparking an outcry from Israel. They docked later at the Syrian port of Latakia. A year later, an Iranian fleet of a destroyer and supply vessel made the same trip, this time calling at the Syrian port of Tartus.

Sayari said the fleet would also make its way to southeast Asia, without giving details. Fars said the fleet would go to Malacca strait, through which more than 30 percent of global trade and half the world’s oil shipments pass. Iran’s navy has been boosting its presence in international waters since 2010, deploying vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden on missions to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.

Moscow working with Tehran to agree date

Meanwhile, Russia said yesterday it is trying to firm up plans for a new round of talks this month between global powers and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“Russia is concerned about this and we continue to work, including with our Iranian partners, to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to state-run news agency Itar-Tass.

 Ryabkov, Russia’s negotiator at the talks, said that until there is a final agreement “there is no agreement.” The Russian Foreign Ministry said later that there was an understanding among the parties involved that the meeting should take place this month, and that the dates reported by ISNA, Jan. 28-29, were being discussed.

January/18/2013

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