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Israel Calls Iranian Ships in Mediterranean 'Provocation'

Israeli President Shimon Peres adjusts his headphones during a breakfast conference in a hotel in Madrid, Spain, February 23, 2011

Israeli President Shimon Peres says the passage of two Iranian naval ships into the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt's Suez Canal is more of a "provocation" than a threat to Israel.

Peres told a conference in Madrid Wednesday that Israel faces a greater threat from Iran's nuclear program. Israel and Western nations suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons -- something Tehran denies.

Egyptian officials said they gave permission for the Iranian frigate and supply ship to pass through the canal early Tuesday.

It was the first time Iranian naval ships have used the Suez Canal since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has said the ships are on a training mission and are headed to Syria. The French news agency reported on Wednesday that NATO is monitoring their movement.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Iranian naval movement, calling it 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 AFP and Reuters.

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