US concerned over ship Moscow sent to Syria

Source at vessel's St. Petersburg-based firm says ship carrying dangerous cargo.

[illustrative photo] Ship at sea 311 (R) (photo credit: Andreas Manolis / Reuters)
[illustrative photo] Ship at sea 311 (R)
(photo credit: Andreas Manolis / Reuters)
WASHINGTON - The United States said on Friday it had raised concerns with Moscow over a Russian-operated ship that has arrived in Syria and which sources said contained a cargo of bullets.
"With regard to the ship we have raised our concerns about this both with Russia and with Cyprus, which was the last port of call for the ship, and we are continuing to seek clarification as to what went down here," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
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The United States had not independently verified the contents of the ship's cargo, she said.
A Cypriot official said Friday that the ship with a "dangerous cargo" on board was carrying ammunition,  as a source at the vessel's St. Petersburg-based firm said it had reached Syria.
Cypriot authorities had checked the vessel when it made an unscheduled stop for refueling in rough seas late on Tuesday. The ship had given Cyprus written assurances that its destination would not be Syria and it was allowed to sail the following day.
"It had bullets. There were four containers on board," the Cypriot official told Reuters.
Russia has long been a major arms supplier to Syria, where President Bashar Assad is trying to crush a 10-month-old wave of unrest by military force, prompting Western and Arab sanctions against Damascus that Moscow has not joined.
"The ship was carrying a dangerous cargo," the source at St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd. said by telephone on condition of anonymity. "It reached Syria on Jan. 11," he said.
Rosoboronexport spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko said on Friday that the arms exporter would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Cypriot media had said on Wednesday that the Mediterranean island state's authorities had intercepted a cargo of ammunition bound for Syria for checks after the ship carrying it put into the port of Limassol for refuelling.
Cypriot officials had no comment but state radio reported then that the vessel would be allowed to sail onwards.