Cyprus stops weapons-laden ship

Cypriot government authorities said yesterday that they were inspecting the cargo of a Cyprus-flagged ship that docked at the southern port of Limassol following reports by Israeli media that the vessel was loaded with illegal weapons for Hamas rulers in Gaza. «We are investigating what is being transported, which is why we have to handle this issue very seriously,» President Dimitris Christofias told reporters. Christofias stressed that the issue was a «problem» for the island. «We don’t want to create any greater problems, because it is a problem for us when we are obliged to receive a Cyprus-flagged ship carrying that which it is carrying, which is in contravention of (United Nations) Security Council resolutions,» Christofias said. Reuters quoted one source as saying that authorities were probing an apparent violation of UN Resolution 1747, which prohibits the transfer of munitions and related materials from Iran. Christofias’s concern was shared by several government officials, including Parliament Speaker Marios Karoyian, who described the incident as «a sensitive matter that needs to be handled very carefully.» Karoyian’s emphasis on the need for caution was echoed by Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou, who said, «The Cyprus government will handle this issue responsibly, taking all external factors into account.» According to a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Russian-owned ship, the Monchegorsk, allegedly had been carrying a shipment of Iranian arms to Gaza and was detained last week by Cyprus following requests by the US and Israeli authorities. Haaretz claimed the arms were destined for Islamist Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip or for Lebanese Islamist guerrilla group Hezbollah. Local media in Cyprus said the vessel was docked off the port of Limassol yesterday and that a search was under way. Cypriot officials did not determine what kind of weapons were found nor how many.

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