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Italian navy ship docks in Iran

Associated Press Associated Press 24/09/2016

TEHRAN, Iran — An Italian navy ship docked in the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on Saturday in the first official visit by a Western naval vessel to the country in several years.

The Italian navy said the frigate Euro -- named for a wind that blows across the Mediterranean from North Africa -- was part of an EU anti-piracy mission and would remain docked in Iran for three days before returning to Italy.

The Italian navy said the visit comes as part of the resumption of "historic and excellent relations" between the two navies. It posted a picture on its Twitter account showing an Iranian girl handing flowers to an Italian officer in Bandar Abbas.

The last time an Italian naval vessel visited Iran was the frigate Bersagliere in April 2001. The frigate Euro last visited in 1999.

Iranian forces have had a series of tense encounters with U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf over the past year. Iran briefly detained 10 U.S. sailors in January after their boats drifted into Iranian waters.

Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency said the Euro would visit other Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf. It noted that the visit comes two weeks after an Italian navy delegation visited the capital, Tehran.

Tehran has moved to improve relations with Western nations following last year's nuclear agreement, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for it curbing its uranium enrichment program.

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