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Iranian Warships Dock in Syria

The Iranian navy frigate IS Alvand passes through the Suez Canal at Ismailia, Egypt, February 22, 2011

Two Iranian naval ships have docked in Syria after passing through Egypt's Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea - an act Israel had called a "provocation."

Reuters news agency said the Iranian frigate and supply ship arrived in Syria Wednesday night.

Iran's naval commander said the ships were conducting a routine visit and aimed to carry what he described as "the message of peace and friendship" to other nations.

Egyptian officials said they gave permission for the Iranian vessels to pass through the Suez Canal early Tuesday.

It was the first time Iranian naval ships have used the canal since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. The French news agency reported on Wednesday that NATO was monitoring their movement.

Israeli President Shimon Peres told a conference in Madrid Wednesday that the passage of the two Iranian ships into the Mediterranean was more of a "provocation" than a threat to Israel.

Peres said Israel faces a greater threat from Iran's nuclear program. Israel and Western nations suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons - a claim Tehran denies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the naval movement as a ploy by Iran to expand its regional influence at a time of instability.

The international Convention of Constantinople, signed in 1888, guarantees the right of passage through the Suez Canal for all seagoing vessels - military or civilian.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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