Iran warships leave Sudan after four-day stay

PORT SUDAN Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:03am EDT

1 of 11. An Iranian soldier stands guard near Iranian Navy helicopter carrier Kharg at Port Sudan at the Red Sea State, October 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

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PORT SUDAN (Reuters) - Two Iranian warships left Sudan on Wednesday after a visit that drew attention to the countries' military ties less than a week after Khartoum accused Israel of bombing a Sudanese arms factory.

Israel accuses the Muslim East African country of channeling weapons to the Gaza Strip, controlled by Iran's ally Hamas, via Egypt's Sinai desert - a charge Khartoum denies.

Last week, a fire at the Yarmouk munitions plant in the south of Khartoum killed four people, and Sudan said an Israeli air strike was behind the blast. Israel has not commented on the fire.

Two Iranian warships docked in Port Sudan several days after the blast, triggering speculation the events were related. Sudan denied this, saying the warships were on a "routine" visit.

The two ships - a helicopter carrier and a destroyer - departed on Wednesday after a four-day stay.

"Today was the last day and we came to bid them farewell," said Sudanese navy officer Omer Al-Farouq, standing on the dock near one of the ships, which was mounted with machineguns and guarded by Iranian troops.

Sudan's armed forces spokesman said the ships visited as part of the two countries' efforts to strengthen "diplomatic, political and security" ties.

Khartoum has blamed Israel for blasts in its territory in the past, but Israel has either refused to comment or said it neither admitted or denied involvement.

A car exploded in Port Sudan in May, killing one person. Sudan said the blast resembled an explosion last year it blamed on an Israeli air strike.

(Reporting by El-Tayeb Siddig and Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz, Editing by William Maclean)

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