Turkey grounds, then frees Iranian plane bound for Syria

Authorities force landing on suspicious cargo; Aircraft carries food but no contraband, say officials.

Iranian cargo plane Turkish airport (R) 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Iranian cargo plane Turkish airport (R) 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Authorities in Turkey forced a Syria-bound Iranian plane to land Tuesday night to search its cargo, Turkish security officials said. The officials said the plane had been freed after being found to have been carrying 150 tons of food, but no “material contrary to international standards.”
Earlier reports had suggested that the aircraft, grounded in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, had been carrying arms or nuclear material.
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Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported that civilian defense teams trained to detect nuclear, biological and chemical materials had conducted the search.
AFP reported that two Turkish F-16 aircraft were put on standby to intervene if the Iranian plane refused orders.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry denied a Dogan news agency report that Turkish military jets forced the plane to land at Diyarbakir airport to search it for arms. The ministry said it is standard procedure for Iranian cargo planes to request permission to fly over Turkey, and sometimes they are required to make unscheduled landings to be searched.
Turkish media reported that after the examination the plane was allowed to continue toward its destination.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel expected Turkey to carry out a proper inspection of the plane.
“We see the plane that landed in Turkey and hope that all relevant authorities will do what they are supposed to do to stop the terrorist buildup,” he said.
On Tuesday, Israeli naval forces operating in international waters boarded a ship carrying arms believed to be on their way from Iran to the Gaza Strip.
Iranian Army Commander- General Amir Ataollah Salehi denied Wednesday that Iran was connected to the weapons found aboard the Victoria.
“The Zionist regime’s diet is mixed with lies, lies and more lies,” Salehi said. “We deny all false reports.”