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THE MIDEAST

Iranian Warships Reportedly to Pass Through Suez Canal

An Iranian warship and speed boats take part in a naval war game in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, southern Iran on April 22, 2010.Reuters

Iran's state-run Press TV reports Thursday that two Iranian warships were still en route to the Suez Canal, despite Israel expressing concern over their passage.

Iranian officials told state TV that they informed Cairo to secure the passage of the warships.

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority tells Reuters that it has not received notification from the Egyptian government that would allow the passage of the Iranian warships.

"I have not received any notification up to now," Suez Canal Authority spokesman Ahmed el-Manakhly told Reuters.

It was earlier reported the two Iranian warships headed for Syria canceled their plans to pass through Egypt’s Suez Canal.

Israel was monitoring the vessels movements on Wednesday and warned it might act if the ships crossed through to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Suez Canal Authority, the body that runs the canal, was "informed today about the cancellation of two scheduled trips of two Iranian warships and no new date was set to cross the Suez as part of the southern convoy coming from the Red Sea," a canal official told Reuters.

Israeli defense officials said that the country’s Navy planned to track the two warships as they crossed the canal.

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement that it had alerted "friendly nations" about the warships, Reuters reported.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that "Israel cannot ignore these provocations," according to ynetnews.com.

"Unfortunately, the international community is not ready to deal with Iran's repeated provocations," Lieberman said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Lieberman added that the warships were "a provocation that proves Iran's nerve and self-esteem is growing from day to day."

Ahmed el-Manakhli, head of the canal’s operations room, said warships must get permission 48 hours before crossing. As of Wednesday, the Suez Canal’s authority had “not been notified,” el-Manakhli said.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an e-mailed statement that "Israel is closely following the movements of the Iranian ships and has updated friendly states on the issue. Israel will continue to follow the ships movements."

Meanwhile, Iran announced plans to deploy warships near Israel and dock at a Syrian port for a year, IsraelNationalNews.com reported Wednesday.

A senior Israeli official told the site that "Israel will know how to deal with it."

Intelligence officials believed that the Iranian warships might have been involved in supplying radical Islamic groups in Yemen with weapons, according to UPI.com.

In Washington, the Pentagon declined to comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.