Wednesday 24 January 2018

Iran sends warships to Suez as Middle East crisis grows

Richard Spencer in Cairo

IRAN was reported last night to be sending warships through the Suez Canal for the first time in 30 years in a provocative flexing of muscles amid chaos in the region, which poses a test of Egypt's new leadership.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, said: "To my regret, the international community is not showing readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations. The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore (them)."

Oil prices flirted with fresh highs after he spoke. Brent Crude rose above $104 a barrel during intra-day trading.

The Iranian move appeared designed to test the stance of the new Egyptian regime following the departure of President Hosni Mubarak.

A spokesman at the Suez Canal Authority said no Iranian naval vessels had passed through the port since the 1979 revolution.

"The Suez Canal does not deny any commercial ships from passing as long as we are not in a state of war," Ahmed El Manakhly, a member of the Suez Canal board, said.

Libya is to be hit by a "Day of Anger" today as protests mount against the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the latest leader to be engulfed by unrest spreading across the Middle East.

Security forces in Libya's second city, Benghazi, clashed yesterday with protesters who staged a sit-in to highlight the arrest of a lawyer. One hospital said 38 people were injured, none seriously

The lawyer, Fethi Tarbel, represented some of the families of inmates killed in a prison massacre in which more than 1,000 men died 15 years ago.

The protest came shortly before a demonstration already announced on Facebook to commemorate the fifth anniversary of another incident, when 14 people were killed in a rally by Islamists, also in Benghazi.

In an apparent gesture of conciliation, Mr Tarbel was later released, along with 110 Islamist prisoners.

In Yemen, demonstrations calling for an end to the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, spread from the capital Sana'a to the southern port city of Aden where police fired in the air to disperse 500 marchers, injuring two and killing two.

In Sana'a, pro-government activists with batons and daggers rounded on demonstrators, threatening to "beat them until they returned to reason".

Mr Saleh's regime is notionally democratic, but has had difficulty in retaining authority except through using the country's limited oil income to buy support from tribal groups.

Its Western allies fear that its declining ability to exert control will see the state fall apart.

In Bahrain, protesters continued to occupy the central Pearl Square, calling for the dismissal of the government and the replacement of the king's uncle as prime minister by an elected politician. Many more took part in the funeral of a man killed by police outside a government hospital on Tuesday shouting anti-government slogans.

In Iran, pro- and anti-government forces clashed at the funeral of one of two men killed in protests on Tuesday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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