Iranian plane departs Turkey after forced landing

Aircraft continues on to Syria; authorities forced landing on suspicious cargo; Ankara says "nothing illegal" found on plane.

March 16, 2011 18:00
1 minute read.
Iranian cargo plane Diyarbakir airport

Iranian cargo plane Turkish airport (R) 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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An Iranian cargo plane, forced to land in southeast Turkey on suspicion it was carrying weapons to Syria, departed on Wednesday after a search squad found nothing illegal on the plane, officials said.

A team trained in chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear cargo from the Civil Defense Directorate inspected the plane, which landed in the city of Diyarbakir late on Tuesday en route from Tehran to Aleppo in northern Syria, the state-run Anatolian news agency said.

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Airport officials said the plane, which had two pilots, an unknown number of crew members and no passengers, was ordered to land on suspicion it was carrying Iranian weapons to Syria.

Selcuk Unal, spokesman for Turkey's Foreign Ministry, told Reuters: "The plane was allowed to continue on its route after a routine control." He added the search squads had found "nothing illegal" inside the aircraft.

The forced landing occurred on the same day Israeli naval commandos seized a cargo ship in the Mediterranean Sea carrying what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said were Iranian-supplied weapons intended for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip..

The Israeli military said the vessel that was captured with Iranian weapons had set off from the Syrian port of Latakia and stopped in Mersin, Turkey, before heading towards Alexandria in Egypt. Turkey was not involved in the arms shipment, it said.

On Wednesday, Israeli Deference Minister Ehud Barak told reporters at Ashdod Port, where the seized cargo ship was taken, that he hoped Turkey carried out a proper inspection.

"We have seen this plane that was stopped in Turkey, and it must be hoped that there, too, they will conduct checks as required, and that the other players that are involved, too -- that everyone in their area do the right things so that this mutual reinforcement of terror and (military) build-up ceases," Barak said.

Before leaving Diyarbakir, the plane, identified as a Russian-made Ilyushin 62 and bearing Arabic script and green livery, was parked on the tarmac at the airport, which is used for both civilian and military aviation.

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