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Iran Withdraws Suez Canal Request

"What their intention is, what their destination is, I can't say."

CAIRO (AP) -- Two Iranian naval vessels withdrew a request Thursday to transit the Suez Canal after Israel expressed concerns over the plans, a senior canal official said.

The official said no reason was given for the decision to withdraw the application. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said it was not known if the vessels intended to transit the waterway at a later date.

The Suez Canal official identified the two vessels as the Alvand, a frigate, and the Kharq, a supply ship, and said they were en route to Syria. He said they were now in an area near the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jiddah.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday that Iran was about to send two naval vessels through the Suez Canal for the first time in years, calling it a "provocation."

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel. While Israel has pressed for international sanctions to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it has not taken the possibility of a military strike off the table.

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Egypt's official MENA news agency quoted Ahmed al-Manakhly, a senior Suez Canal official, as denying that the waterway's management had received any requests by Iranian navy ships to transit the canal.

On Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed the presence of the two Iranian ships in the area of the canal but would not say whether that was considered provocative.

"There are two ships in the Red Sea," he said, "What their intention is, what their destination is, I can't say."

Vessels intending to transit the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, must give the waterway's authority at least 24-hour notice before entering the canal.

Only ships that don't meet safety requirements are banned from using the canal.

In the case of naval vessels, a clearance from the Egyptian defense and foreign ministries is required in advance, but is rarely withheld.

One last thing…
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