Four French Warships Enter Red Sea on Way to Persian Gulf With AM-France-Terrorism Bjt
SUEZ, Egypt (AP) _ The French aircraft carrier Clemenceau and three accompanying warships on Wednesday passed through the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea on their way to the Persian Gulf region.
A canal port official in Suez, who spoke on condition he not be identified by name, said the Clemenceau, the missile-launching frigates Suffren and Duquesne and the oiler Meuse entered the northern tip of the canal early Wednesday and completed the trip later in the day.
French Premier Jacques Chirac said in a television interview Sunday in Paris that the squadron’s destination is ″off the Strait of Hormuz″ and that it would strike ″if French interests were attacked.″
″Our understanding is that they are going to the gulf area,″ a canal official in Port Said earlier told The Associated Press.
The French naval squadron sailed toward the Persian Gulf as Iran continued three days of military exercises dubbed ″Martyrdom″ and warned that its anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles were ready to be fired against any target.
The Iranian threats were directed mainly at the strong U.S. military force in the gulf protecting Kuwaiti oil tankers flying the American flag.
Chirac said last week that the decision to dispatch the French naval squadron was ″a proof of firmness″ by his government in its standoff with Iran.
France severed diplomatic relations with Iran on July 17. The two countries are locked in a struggle over diplomatic personnel in each other’s capitals.
France already has three warships in the gulf which were reported, despite French denials, to be escorting French tankers in the area.
The Clemenceau, commissioned in 1961, carries Super-Etendard fighter jets capable of carrying bombs, rockets or Exocet missiles.