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Iran Guards commander challenges ‘enemy’ naval presence in region

(Reuters) – The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards vowed on Saturday to reach “the enemy” far and near as tensions soar on key shipping routes where Tehran’s allies have been attacking vessels.

“Today, we are facing an all-out battle with the enemy,” said Guards commander Hossein Salami at a ceremony in the southern Gulf port city of Bandar Abbas, where the Guards’ navy unveiled a new ship named “Abu Mahdi” and 100 missile launchers.

Salami did not name the enemy, but 22 nations have agreed to participate in a U.S.-led coalition to safeguard commercial traffic in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement.

The Houthi attacks since November are a show of support for the Palestinian group Hamas in its war with Israel.

In response, many major shipping companies have switched to the longer and more costly route around the Africa’s Cape of Good Hope rather than pass through the Suez Canal, which handles about 12% of global trade.

“We need to defend our national interests to wherever they extend,” Salami said in a televised speech. “It will be harmful for the enemy to be found near and at a half distant. They should stay away from this area.”

The Guards’ navy, he said, had made a “brilliant leap in its offensive and defensive powers” to challenge the world’s naval powers.

According to Iranian media, Iran’s Alborz warship entered the Red Sea earlier this month to secure shipping routes.

([email protected]; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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