cyprus ship iran arms hamas 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A ship suspected of carrying arms to Gaza will not be returned to Iran, Cypriot officials said Saturday, but they refused to say what exactly was found onboard the boat or whether the cargo contravened UN resolutions.
Cyprus inspected the Monchegorsk twice after it arrived January 29 under suspicion of ferrying weapons from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. The US military stopped the ship last month in the Red Sea, and said it found artillery shells and other arms aboard. But it could not legally detain the ship, which continued to Port Said, Egypt, and then to Cyprus.
Authorities will decide what to do with the cargo once they have finished searching the ship, Cyprus' President Dimitris Christofias said, without saying how long that could take.
One option could be to confiscate the cargo, the president said. But Cyprus has ruled out sending the shipment back to Iran, Christofias' adviser George Iacovou said Saturday, according to state-run CyBC radio.
Christofias said Cyprus had received clear guidance from the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on whether the cargo breached sanctions barring Iran from sending arms abroad, but he refused to give any details or say what was advised.
The Cyprus-flagged ship is now anchored off the port of Limassol under tight security.
Cyprus is also consulting with the UN Security Council on the issue, government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said
"The Cyprus Republic will do what it must do and will decide very soon," Stefanou told a news briefing.