Rebels: Sudan, Iran Agree to Set Up Military Base in Red Sea

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Sudanese rebels claimed that Khartoum and Tehran have struck an agreement to set up an Iranian military base off the coasts of Sudan in the Red Sea.

Sudan's anti-government newspaper Hurriyat cited an unnamed opposition source as saying that the Sudanese government had struck a deal with Iran for building a base in the Red Sea.

Another Sudanese anti-government news outlet, al-Rakoba, quoted Sudan's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) as saying that President Omar al-Bashir has made "highly advanced" arrangements with Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to establish a naval base either in Port Sudan or elsewhere in the Red Sea.

The accusations came after two Iranian naval vessels, the 1,400-ton Destroyer Jamaran and the 4,700-ton support ship Bushehr, docked in Port Sudan on Saturday.

Mahjoub Hussein, a spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement, said that "the visit of the Iranian warships, the second in recent months, was not intended as a message to Israel but rather to test regional opinion regarding the establishment of an Iranian military base".

According to reports in the Sudanese press, Sudan's army spokesperson Colonel Al- Sawarmi Khalid Saad said on Friday that the visit by the Iranian military vessels is part of a "military exchange" with Iran. The ships are scheduled to stay for three days, during which they will be open for view by the public.

On Saturday, the Iranian Navy's 23rd fleet of warships, including home-made Jamaran destroyer, entered Port Sudan, the Iranian navy announced.

The Navy's public relations office said the fleet, comprised of Jamaran destroyer and the logistical chopper carrier vessel, Bushehr, docked in Port Sudan after passing through the strategic Strait of Bab el-Mandeb and accomplishing its mission in the Red Sea.

Late in October, the Iranian Navy's 22nd fleet of warship had docked in Port Sudan.

The Iranian Navy's fleet of warships was comprised of Khark warship and Shahid Naqdi Destroyer. Khark has 250 crewmembers and can carry three helicopters.

The Iranian Navy said at the time that the visit was aimed at conveying the message of peace and friendship to the neighboring countries and ensuring security for transportation and shipping against sea piracy.

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008, when Somali raiders hijacked the Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.

According to UN Security Council resolutions, different countries can send their warships to the Gulf of Aden and coastal waters of Somalia against the pirates and even with prior notice to Somali government enter the territorial waters of that country in pursuit of Somali sea pirates.

The Gulf of Aden - which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea - is an important energy corridor, particularly because Persian Gulf oil is shipped to the West through the Suez Canal.