Suez Canal - AP - Feb 17, 2011
The Suez Canal. Photo by AP
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The passage of two Iranian naval vessels through the Suez Canal has been delayed by 48 hours, a canal official said on Sunday.

The frigate and supply ship had been due to enter the canal at 6 A.M. on Monday with the northbound convoy that moves daily. The passage through the canal would be a first for Iranian naval vessels since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

A Suez Canal official said late Saturday the vessels were due to arrive at the southern mouth of the canal in the Red Sea's Gulf of Suez on Sunday, enter the canal in the northern convoy on Monday morning and complete the journey to the Mediterranean by evening.

An Egyptian army source said that the military, which has been running Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power on Feb. 11, had approved Iran's request to send the ships through the canal.

Israel is following the movement of the warships closely, although it does not believe the Iranian vessels have hostile intentions toward Israel.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last week called the planned crossing of the canal "another provocation" by Iran against Israel.

The vessels, which are apparently not carrying any unconventional cargo, are expected to anchor in the Syrian port of Latakia.

Israel believes the Egyptians had no choice but to allow the ships to pass through the Suez Canal, because the treaty to which it is a signatory obliges it to allow free passage through the waterway.

However, during recently ousted President Hosni Mubarak's regime, the Iranians did not make such a move, apparently due to clear opposition from Cairo.

The Israel Navy is prepared in case the Iranian ships make a move toward the Israeli coastline, though the chances of that happening at this point are believed to be slim.