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In brief: Iran planning greater naval presence

Tehran, Iran – Iran plans to expand its naval presence in international waters as part of efforts to boost its military and extend its reach as far as Antarctica, the head of the country’s navy said Saturday.

The comments from Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari reflect Iran’s aspirations to transform its navy into a force capable of sustained operations in the open ocean. They also are seen as a response to America’s beefed-up naval deployment near the Islamic Republic’s coasts in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain – across the gulf from Iran.

“We have the capability to hoist Iran’s flag in different regions from the North Pole to the South Pole and we are preparing plans for a presence near the South Pole,” state TV quoted Sayyari as saying.

The Iranian navy has steadily expanded its international presence since 2008. Last year, two Iranian warships for the first time in decades traveled through the Suez Canal, extending Iran’s naval reach to the Mediterranean Sea. Now, some Iranian ships also operate in the northern Indian Ocean.

Phony pilot flies in cockpit

Rome – Italian police describe it as a real-life sequel to “Catch Me If You Can,” the hit movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the true story about an ingenious con artist masquerading as a commercial airline pilot.

An unemployed 32-year-old Italian man was stopped at Turin’s Caselle airport on suspicion he successfully used false IDs, a cap and uniform to convince a crew he was a pilot and let him fly for free inside the cockpit aboard a commercial flight from Munich, Germany, to Turin, Carabinieri paramilitary police said Saturday.

Police said two real pilots flew the Air Dolomiti plane on the flight in April. The man, who wasn’t identified, didn’t touch the controls while in the cockpit. Police caught up with the man at the Turin airport terminal Wednesday after tailing him for months and receiving a tip.

A police statement said the suspect was cited for suspicion of putting at risk the security of air transport and “usurping a title.”

Ecuador offers to escort Assange

Quito Ecuador – Ecuador has suggested that it take WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden for questioning under its protection, in the latest move in the diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Assange took shelter in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in relation to allegations of rape and sexual assault.

Ecuador has granted the Australian asylum inside the embassy but Britain says it will not allow him to leave the building for the South American country.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Richard Patino said that he would discuss the proposal with his British counterpart William Hague at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Thursday.