'Israel views Iran ships crossing Suez with utmost gravity'

Netanyahu tells cabinet that Iran is trying to "expand its influence in the region"; conflicting reports on warships passing through canal.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 20, 2011 11:18
1 minute read.
PM Netanyahu speaks at weekly cabinet meeting

Netanyahu in cabinet meeting 311. (photo credit: AP)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel views with utmost gravity the intent of Iran to send warships to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, a move he termed "an Iranian attempt to expand its influence in the region."

Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting that the "security component is critical to any peace agreement." "I think that today, we can see what an unstable region we live in, a region in which Iran tries to exploit the situation that has been created in order to expand its influence by passing warships through the Suez Canal," he added.

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"Israel's security needs will grow and the defense budget must grow accordingly," the prime minister added.

Earlier on Sunday, Iranian media reported that the two vessels had begun their passage through the Suez Canal.

"Two Iranian warships have passed through the canal and are heading towards a Syrian port," Iranian television network Al Alam reported.

The reports however could not be officially confirmed, and Egyptian officials said the ships had not yet begun to transit the canal.



Egyptian official from the Suez Canal Authority confirmed that the authority had decided to allow the ships to travel through the canal but did not confirm if the transit had started.

The official said that the vessels were due to arrive at the southern part of the canal later Sunday and will enter the Mediterranean on Monday morning.

The Egyptian approval follows a weekend of mixed reports as to whether Egyptian authorities had approved the vessels' passage or not.


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