Iran to build more ships, boost naval presence

DUBAI Thu Jun 21, 2012 6:52am EDT

Iran's Navy commander Habibollah Sayyari (C) points while standing on a naval ship during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fars News/Hamed Jafarnejad

Iran's Navy commander Habibollah Sayyari (C) points while standing on a naval ship during Velayat-90 war game on Sea of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran January 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Fars News/Hamed Jafarnejad

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DUBAI (Reuters) - The Iranian navy has announced plans to build more warships and increase its presence in international waters at a time of growing tension in the Middle East over Tehran's nuclear program.

Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the deployments would protect Iranian cargo ships around the world, in particular in the Gulf of Aden and the northern part of the Indian Ocean, according to state news agency IRNA.

The navy wanted to guard Iranian ships from Somali pirates, the report said.

IRNA did not mention Israel although the Jewish state has hinted it might take military action against Iran's nuclear program.

An Israeli official repeated the veiled threat on Wednesday following the failure of the latest round of international talks to make progress on the issue.

State-owned Press TV quoted Sayyari as saying: "Our presence in international waters is aimed at safeguarding the interests of the Islamic Republic and strengthening military power to defend Iran."

"So we will multiply our efforts to enhance our military might and have a presence in international waters," he said.

The navy's deputy chief for technical affairs said the force planned to build 10 more vessels, including destroyers and missile-launching frigates, Press TV said.

Work on building the ships would start after construction of "Velayat" a Mowj-2 class destroyer is completed. That is due at the end of the Iranian calendar year next March.

Iranian military officials often assert their military strength in the region, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz, the world's most important oil transit channel carrying supplies from Gulf producers to the West.

Tehran has previously threatened to block the waterway if attacked.

Two Iranian warships entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in February 2011 for the first time, and naval vessels also called at a Syrian naval base this February in a show of support for its ally President Bashar al-Assad.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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