'Francop' second German ship caught with Hizbullah-bound weapons

Francop second German

francop 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
francop 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Francop, the German-owned vessel seized early Wednesday by the Israel Navy that was carrying weapons destined for Syria and Hizbullah, is the second German-owned ship found carrying Hizbullah-bound arms in the past month. Asked about the Iranian rockets found on the Francop, a representative from shipping company Gerd Bartels told The Jerusalem Post, "I am sorry but I cannot give an answer." Gerd Bartels is based in Neu Wulmstorf, near Hamburg. The ship had been leased by a Cypriot company and was flying an Antiguan flag. In early October, the Hansa India, owned by the Hamburg-based Leonhardt and Blumberg company, was seized by the US Navy in Suez Bay. Aaron Sagui, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, declined to comment on the involvement of multiple German vessels transporting Iranian weapons. He told the Post that the "ship is proof of how Iran is violating international law and UN sanctions," adding that "Iran keeps sending arms to Hamas and Hizbullah." That German ships were being used for arms smuggling stood in marked contrast to remarks made Tuesday by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington. Speaking to the US Congress, Merkel said, "A nuclear bomb in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and denies Israel the right to exist is not acceptable. "Israel's security will never be open to negotiation," she continued. "Not only Israel is threatened but the entire free world. Whoever threatens Israel also threatens us. This is why the free world meets this threat head on, if necessary with tough economic sanctions." Asked about the seeming contradiction, a German government spokeswoman told the Post that, "the German Foreign Ministry is in close contact with the responsible Israeli authority and is intensively working to secure clarification" of the shipment of rockets aboard a German vessel. Asked for a comment, a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry responded by e-mail that "all of the participants in the various departments could not be reached." Critics in Germany, Israel and the US argue that Germany is dragging its feet in imposing tough sanctions on Iran. Germany has largely remained Iran's biggest EU trading partner, with business totaling almost €4 billion in 2008. The lack of unilateral German sanctions coupled with the country's reluctance to push for harder UN and EU sanctions has prompted Israeli and American security experts to question the authenticity of the German government's commitment to Israel's security interests. The public prosecutor, Kai Thomas Breas of Stade, near Hamburg, could not be immediately reached for comment. The public prosecutor is charged with investigating violations of Germany's foreign trade law barring arms and military commerce with nations sanctioned by the EU and the UN.