Iranian Warships Enter Suez Canal

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Iran has taken advantage of the recent Mideast upheaval and sent two warships into the Suez Canal Tuesday for the first time in 30 years.

Canal officials confirmed the ships were on their way to the Mediterranean Sea. Israeli officials said the passage of the two vessels is provocative and commentators said it's a challenge to Israel and the U.S.

Iranian television announced Sunday that the two Iranian warships had already passed through the Suez Canal and were heading for a Syrian port.

However, Egyptian canal officials said they had delayed the vessels passage until Wednesday. It would be the first time since 1979 that Iranian warships have passed through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel said it was closely monitoring the situation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that Israel gravely views this controversial Iranian step.

"We can see just how unstable a region we live in -- in a region where Iran attempts to take advantage of the current situation to advance its influence by passing two war vessels through the Suez Canal," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said this and other developments showed Israel's defense needs and its defense budget will grow.

Radical Islamic Iran and western-backed Egypt have long vied for supremacy in the Middle East.

Pro-democracy protests in Egypt toppled the long-time government of Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11.

The Egyptian military is currently ruling the country and Iran would like to see the country transition into a fellow Islamic state. Also, Egypt may have moved a step closer to becoming an Islamic Republic last week with the return of popular radical Islamic cleric Yusef al-Qaradawi from exile.

Iran said its ships were heading to a Syrian port for a year-long training exercise. The country's news agency also reported the Iranian navy plans to send its whole fleet of warships through the Suez.

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