German ship 'carrying Syria arms'


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Germany's government said today that it is looking into a report that weapons bound for the Syrian regime were loaded onto a German-owned ship.

German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the Atlantic Cruiser was halted in the Mediterranean after its owners were warned it was suspected to be carrying Iranian military equipment to Tartus, Syria, where it was supposed to arrive Friday. 

Der Spiegel quoted shipping agent Torsten Lueddeke of Hamburg-based C.E.G. Bulk Chartering as saying: "We stopped the ship after we received information on the weapons cargo." 

He said the ship had been chartered to an Odessa, Ukraine-based company called White Whale Shipping and "they declared to us as cargo above all pumps and things like that," according to the report. "We would never have allowed weapons on board." 

The ship's current whereabouts weren't clear. Der Spiegel — which reported that the suspect cargo was loaded in Djibouti — said it had changed course for Iskenderun, Turkey, yesterday and then stopped about 50 miles southwest of Tartus and sailed in circles. 

Phones at C.E.G. and the German owner of the ship, which is registered in Antigua & Barbuda, rang unanswered on Saturday, and neither immediately responded to e-mailed requests for comment. The Ukrainian company also could not be reached for comment. 

The German Economy Ministry said it was aware of the case and looks into all suspected embargo breaches, but didn't yet have any details. 

Germany has been a strong advocate of sanctions against Syria amid a violent crackdown by President Bashar Assad's government on the country's uprising. The 27-nation European Union has imposed an arms embargo among other measures.