Iran says warships at the entrance to key Yemen strait
TEHRAN - Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoTwo Iranian destroyers, sent to the Gulf of Aden to protect commercial ships, have reached the entrance of Bab el-Mandab, a strategic strait between Yemen and Djibouti, Iran's navy said April 30.
"We are present in the Gulf of Aden in accordance with international regulations to ensure the safety of commercial ships of our country against the threat of pirates," the head of the Iranian navy Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari was quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
The navy sent the Alborz and Bushehr destroyers to patrol the entrance to the strait, he added.
Bab el-Mandeb, a narrow body of water separating Yemen and Djibouti, is the key strategic entry point into the Red Sea, through which around 4 million barrels of oil pass each day on ships headed to or from the Suez Canal.
Last week, US officials said a US aircraft carrier and a cruiser left the waters off Yemen and headed back to the Gulf after an Iranian naval convoy also turned back from the area.
Washington suspected the convoy of carrying weapons destined for Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.
"The information that the Iranian ships received warnings and left the area is not correct," Sayari said, insisting that Iran will not enter "the territorial waters of other countries" in reference to Yemen.
Saudi Arabia, which heads an Arab coalition conducting air strikes on Yemeni rebels since March, has imposed an air and sea blockade.
Sayari said the two destroyers would stay around Bab el-Mandab until late June.
Iran continues to deny reports it armed Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen and has called for the immediate end of coalition air strikes as a condition to resuming dialogue aimed at ending the crisis in the impoverished Gulf nation.
The Iranian navy has deployed warships in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean for a number of years to stave off the threat of hijacking for commercial vessels.