Ship suspected of arms smuggling to Syria docks in Turkey: media

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2012 7:14 AM
Ship suspected of arms smuggling to Syria docks in Turkey: media

ANKARA (Reuters) - A ship suspected of carrying weapons and ammunition and believed to be heading for Syria docked at Turkey's Mediterranean Iskenderun port on Wednesday after receiving a U.N. warning to change its course, local media reported.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said a ship had docked at Iskenderun on Wednesday but could not confirm whether there were weapons aboard. The report was carried by Turkey's state news agency Anatolian on its website and other local media.

Dogan news agency said the ship, called Atlantic Cruiser, docked at 11:15 local time and was sailing under the colors of Bermuda.

Germany was this week investigating a German-owned vessel of the same name en route to Syria for allegedly carrying Iranian weapons in breach of an arms embargo. It was not clear whether Wednesday's reports were referring to the same ship.

German shipping company W. Bockstiegel, which owns the Atlantic Cruiser, ordered the vessel on Monday to turn its transponder back on after the ship switched off the tracking system because its crew feared attack.

It had no information about any weapons on board the ship which was originally destined for Syria.

White Whale Shipping, the Ukrainian company that chartered the Atlantic Cruiser has denied there were arms on board and said its cargo was civilian goods. Sending weapons to Syria would be in violation of a European Union arms embargo.

Der Spiegel news magazine reported the ship had loaded its cargo in Djibouti this week and changed course for Iskenderun in Turkey on Friday when the cargo was at risk of being uncovered.

The ship stopped about 80 km (50 miles) southwest of the Syrian port of Tartus, its initial destination, it said.

W. Bockstiegel said goods were loaded on the ship in Mumbai, India and it was destined for Syria, Turkey and Montenegro. A portion of the goods were off-loaded at Djibouti and no new goods were taken on board there, it said.

Its crew members inspected the top of the cargo that it could open and found only cable drums and tubes.

The German government has said there are still unanswered questions about the ship's cargo.

Western sanctions imposed on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad include an arms embargo and a ban on importing Syrian oil into the European Union.

(Writing by Jonathon Burch)