A German-owned ship headed for Syria is under suspicion of carrying weapons, in violation of an EU arms embargo. The vessel was being searched at port in Turkey.
Turkish authorities have begun searching a German-owned freight ship docked in the Turkish port city of Iskenderun after allegations it was carrying weapons to Syria, officials said Thursday.
The warnings reportedly came from Syrian government defectors who said the Antigua and Barbuda-flagged Atlantic Cruiser may have weapons aboard.
A Turkish customs official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government procedures confirmed the search to the Associated Press and said it was unclear how long it would last.
Turkey is enforcing an EU arms embargo on Syria in reaction to its government's 13-month bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The ship was already scheduled to unload goods in Iskenderun, and the German owner, W. Bockstiegel Reederei, said it had proposed on Monday that the ship be inspected there.
The company said it had received an e-mail on April 13 from a group calling itself the Syrian Revolution Naval Forces alleging the ship held weapons meant for Syria.
Shipping firm denies arms delivery
Bockstiegel said in a statement that neither it nor the Ukrainian company that chartered the ship had any indication that the Atlantic Cruiser was carrying any "weapons, munitions or military equipment."
It said its company records showed that the goods to be unloaded in Syria were components for the construction of a thermal power station. The freight on board was loaded in Mumbai, India and was headed for Syria, Turkey and Montenegro.
Bockstiegel added that it was in close contact with the German government and that it "adheres to the law closely."
acb/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)