TEHRAN: Iran plans to dispatch a small naval fleet to the Mediterranean in line with its intention of boosting its presence in international waters, its navy chief was cited by the media Thursday as saying.
The deployment will mark Iran's third mission since the 1979 Islamic revolution to the Mediterranean. Iranian warships docked at Syrian ports in 2011 and 2012.
The fleet will go through "the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab al-Mandeb, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and then into the Mediterranean Sea in a three-month mission," navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari told the Fars news agency.
He said the fleet, whose composition was not given, would leave in "the coming days."
It was unclear whether the fleet would visit ports in Iran's regional ally Syria. US officials accuse Iran of providing Syria with arms and military advisers.
In February 2011, two Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, sparking an outcry from Israel. They docked later at the Syrian port of Latakia.
A year later, an Iranian fleet of a destroyer and supply vessel made the same trip, this time calling at the Syrian port of Tartus.
Sayari said the fleet would also make its way to southeast Asia, without giving details.
Fars said the fleet would go to Malacca strait, through which more than 30 percent of global trade and half the world's oil shipments pass.
Iran's navy has been boosting its presence in international waters since 2010, deploying vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden on missions to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.
Iran's navy, with 17,000 servicemen, is tasked with defending Iranian interests in the Indian Ocean and beyond. Its offshore forces are limited to half a dozen small frigates and destroyers, and three Russian Kilo class submarines.