cyprus ship iran arms hamas 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A ship detained off Cyprus has breached a UN ban on Iranian arms exports, Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said Tuesday.
But Kyprianou refused to specify what had been found on the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk, which US officials suspect was delivering arms to Hamas in Gaza.
Kyprianou said Cyprus will decide what to do with the cargo once the search of all containers aboard the ship is completed.
Cyprus inspected the Monchegorsk twice after it arrived January 29 under suspicion of ferrying weapons from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. It remains anchored off the port of Limassol under tight security.
Returning the shipment to Iran has been ruled out, but Kyprianou said possible options include confiscating and storing it in Cyprus or another country.
Last week, Cyprus applied for and received guidance from the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on whether the cargo breached sanctions barring Iran from sending arms abroad.
The committee was established in December 2006 to oversee a UN Security Council-imposed embargo on Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, an export ban on arms and related material, and individual targeted sanctions including travel bans and an assets freeze.
Iran has denied accusations it is trying to build nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity.
Kyprianou said Cyprus would "turn to friends" for help if authorities decide against storing the Monchegorsk's cargo on the island.
Britain's Minister for Europe Caroline Flint, who is visiting Cyprus, said her country is ready to help.
"My understanding is that Cypriot authorities are looking into what the situation is, what is the specifications on these weapons that are there," Flint said after talks with Kyprianou.
"And I think when we have a better report of that, the U.K. and I'm sure other countries will want to help in whatever way we can to make sure that they are disposed of effectively."
The US military stopped the ship last month in the Red Sea, and said it found artillery shells and other arms on board. But it could not legally detain the ship, which continued to Port Said, Egypt, and then to Cyprus.
US officials had said the ship was headed for Syria.