Alexander Sandels – Los Angeles Times March 5, 2011
The two Iranian warships that entered the Mediterranean last month — a move that sparked angry protests from Israel — have wrapped up their mission and returned to the Red Sea, Iranian state media reported on Saturday.
“The flotilla … has completed its mission successfully in the Mediterranean Sea and has returned to the Red Sea transiting through the Suez Canal,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted naval commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari as saying.
The naval commander said a number of objectives were accomplished during the mission, including the training of naval students, enhancing ties with countries in the region, and providing security across shipping lines in the pirate haven of the Gulf of Aden, reported Iranian English-language news network Press TV.
According to Sayari, the ships will continue their mission around the Red Sea.
The passing of the two warships, named Khark and Alvand, through Egypt’s Suez Canal on Feb. 22 marked the first time warships carrying fluttering Iranian flags entered the Mediterranean since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The ships reportedly docked two days later at the port of Latakia in Syria.
Israel immediately criticized Iranian warships floating in the Mediterranean as a “political provocation” and put its navy on high alert during the Iranian flotilla mission.
Iran, however, emphasized that Khark and Alvand only “carried the message of peace and friendship to world countries,” said Press TV.
The 1,500-ton frigate Alvand is reportedly equipped with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles while the 33,000-ton supply vessel Khark has a crew of 250 and has the capacity to carry three helicopters.