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Iran sending warships close to US borders

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Dec. 8, 2012: One of two Iranian navy warships arrives to dock at Port Sudan in the Red Sea state. (REUTERS)

A senior Iranian naval commander says his country has sent several warships to the Atlantic Ocean, close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time.

The commander of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet, Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad, is quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying Saturday that the vessels have already begun the journey to the Atlantic Ocean via waters near South Africa.

"Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message," Haddad reportedly said, according to Fars, a semi-official Iranian news agency. 

Iranian officials said last month that the fleet consisted of the destroyer Sabalan and the logistic helicopter carrier Khark, which will be on a three-month mission. The ships are carrying some 30 navy academy cadets for training along with their regular crews. 

Haddad says the fleet is approaching U.S. maritime borders for the first time. The Islamic Republic considers the move as a response to U.S. naval deployments near its own coastlines. The U.S. Navy's 5th fleet is based in nearby Bahrain -- across the gulf from Iran. 

Iran has regularly deployed warships to the Gulf of Aden off the eastern coast of Africa to fight privacy and protect commercial ships. 

It has also sent its warships to Syrian waters in recent years. 

In 2012, Iran said it aims to put warships in international waters off the U.S. coast within the next few years, and extend its reach as far as Antarctica. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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