- - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IRAN

Warships ignore warning, enter Mediterranean

CAIRO | Two Iranian naval ships crossed the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They were on a training mission that Israel calls a provocation.

“They are now in Mediterranean waters,” a canal official said.

The patrol frigate IS Alvand and support ship IS Kharg reportedly are bound for Syria, a destination that would take them near Israeli waters.

The 1,500-ton Alvand is normally armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, while the 33,000-ton Kharg has a crew of 250 and facilities for up to three helicopters, Iran’s official Fars news agency has said.

Both ships were built in Britain during the 1970s for Iran, which ordered them before the Islamic Revolution.

Neither ship is carrying chemical or nuclear material, Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency has reported.

SAUDI ARABIA

Official: King Abdullah to return Wednesday

RIYADH | Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah will return home on Wednesday from Morocco, where he has been recovering from a back operation, the royal palace said in a statement.

King Abdullah “will, God willing, arrive in Riyadh Wednesday afternoon … following a successful treatment,” said the statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

An official told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday that “the king is expected to return Wednesday, and preparations are under way” to greet the monarch.

Another source has said that Saudi state media, especially television channels, have been instructed to begin from Tuesday to broadcast special programs about the king.

The streets of Riyadh already have been decorated with national flags for his return.

WEST BANK

Palestinians say Israeli army destroys tents, wells

HEBRON | Israeli troops on Tuesday destroyed several tents and two wells, including one from the Roman era near the city of Hebron, Palestinian witnesses told Agence France-Presse.

The Israeli civil administration in the West Bank could not be reached immediately for comment on the report.

Witnesses said troops demolished about 12 tents and two wells near the village of Sussiya, which is adjacent to an Israeli settlement of the same name.

Azmi Shiyuki, a village official, told Agence France-Presse that one of the wells dated from the Roman era.

On Feb. 1, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs condemned Israeli demolition of cisterns and wells.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Billion-dollar missile deal expected this spring

ABU DHABI | A Lockheed Martin official said Tuesday that he expects an agreement to be concluded this spring for the United Arab Emirates to buy an anti-ballistic-missile system reportedly worth about $7 billion.

“I think … sometime this spring, we’ll get some positive news that the two governments have reached an agreement” on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, said Dennis Cavin, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for international air and missile defense.

“The discussions started way back in 2007, when the Emirati government expressed interest in an integrated air and missile defense system,” he said at a defense exposition in Abu Dhabi.

The missile defense consists of “the Patriot PAC-3 system, the THAAD system and then the integration” of the two, he added.

“It’s a layered defense system,” with Patriot missiles covering lower altitudes while THAAD covers higher ones, said Thomas McGrath, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and THAAD program manager.

Patriot missiles also can target cruise missiles and aircraft, while THAAD exclusively targets ballistic missiles, Mr. McGrath said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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