June 28, 2010 / 8:08 AM / 9 years ago

Iran cancels aid ship to Gaza

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s Red Crescent Society has canceled a plan to send a shipload of aid to the Gaza Strip, saying it was denied access to pass through the Suez Canal, a claim rejected by an Egyptian official.

A ship had been due to set off from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas over the last few days as part of Iran’s support to efforts to break Israel’s blockade of the strip.

“Following further restrictions imposed by the occupier regime and prevention of a permit for the ship to pass through the Suez Canal, the departure of the Red Crescent ship carrying humanitarian aid has been postponed,” the Iranian Red Crescent Society said in a statement on its website.

The Suez Canal Administration said it had not received any request for Iranian vessels to cross the canal en route to Gaza.

“We did not inform the Iranian side of refusing to allow any aid vessel and at the same time we have not received any requests through shipping agents or Iranian authorities regarding the passage of an aid ship,” a senior official at the authority said.

He added that Suez Canal Authority does not impose any restrictions on Iranian ships.

Israel accuses Iran of arming the Palestinian enclave’s Islamist rulers, Hamas and is concerned Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed at making a nuclear bomb.

Tehran denies both charges, saying it offers only moral support to Hamas and that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

On May 31, Israeli troops stormed a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists. Amid the international outcry, Israel has said it is easing the blockade on Gaza.

The Iranian Red Crescent said it was looking at other ways of getting aid to Gaza.

Additional reporting by Marwa Awad in Cairo; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Samia Nakhoul

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