Iranian ships dock at Port Sudan

Oct. 30, 2012 at 5:41 AM

TEHRAN, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Two Iranian navy vessels docked at a port in Sudan, days after an explosion destroyed an arms factory in Khartoum believed to contain Iranian weapons.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said the navy's 22nd fleet, including a corvette and freighter, docked Monday at Port Sudan. The aim of the visit is to convey a message of peace and friendship to neighboring countries, the agency said. On arrival Iranian navy commanders met with their Sudanese counterparts.

Iran's Press TV said the 22nd fleet was dispatched late September to the coast of Djibouti and the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb.

The Iranian navy has beefed up its presence in international waters deploying vessels to the Indian Ocean and in February two ships sailed through the Suez Canal, al-Arabiya reported. It has also been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, the network said. The Gulf of Aden links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea and is considered the quickest route for ships traveling between Asia, Europe and the Americas, al-Arabiya said.

Sudan has accused Israel of being behind the explosion at the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum, saying four fighter jets bombed the plant. Israel has refused to comment on the accusations.

The BBC said unconfirmed reports suggested the facility was being used by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards to produce weapons for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli defense officials have said a number of times Sudan is considered a smuggling route for weapons that are transferred to the Sinai in Egypt and from there make their way to militants in the Gaza Strip.

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