NEWS

No US arms for Israel via Greece

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis admitted yesterday that a US ship came close to unloading munitions destined for Israel at a port in western Greece but he emphasized that the government did not give permission for the transfer of the arms. The premier was forced to make a statement on the issue in Parliament yesterday in response to a relevant question that was submitted by the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group, Alekos Alavanos. «Last November, when there was no conflict in the region [Gaza], the American side inquired about the possibility of transporting arms from the port of Astakos,» said Karamanlis. «The ship came close to Astakos port at the beginning of this month but the Merchant Marine Ministry did not give permission, so the ship left and the shipment did not take place.» Karamanlis’s statement echoed comments made by the government earlier in the week, in which the conservatives said that they had stopped the shipment of some 3,000 tons of American munitions from reaching Israel via Greece. The US Navy wanted to transfer 325 20-foot containers of ammunition from an American ship to a smaller vessel, which would then have taken them to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ryder suggested late Monday that the shipment had been canceled due to security concerns in Gaza. But another Pentagon official, Geoff Morrell, said on Tuesday that the transfer did not take place because Greece «had some objection to offloading the shipment in their country.» Karamanlis also denied yesterday that the naval base at Souda Bay in Crete would be used to ship arms to Israel. «I can assure you that no Greek port, no Greek airport has been used in connection to the continuing crisis in the Middle East,» said the prime minister. «We support the full and lasting restoration of peace and stability in the Middle East,» he added.