01/30/2009, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST
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Cyprus and Egypt stop Iranian ships with weapons for Hamas and Hezbollah

Cypriot president Demetris Christofia confirms the detainment: the ship was "in contravention of security council resolutions." On January 28, Egypt blocked an Iranian ship at the entrance to the Suez Canal: it was transporting weapons for Hamas. The Egyptian foreign minister accuses Iran of fomenting tension in order to escape pressure from the West on the nuclear question.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Cypriot authorities have stopped an Iranian ship loaded with weapons and traveling towards Syria. A diplomatic source for the European Union says that Cyprus acted on instructions from the United States and Israel.

The incident took place yesterday. The ship, which was Iranian but flying the Cypriot flag, was ordered to dock at Limassol for inspection. On board, Cypriot authorities found a load of weapons, including heavy artillery, rockets, and documents. According to Jerusalem, the weapons were being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon or to Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.

Cypriot president Demetris Christofia confirmed the detainment of a ship, because the cargo seemed to be "in contravention of security council resolutions," according to which ships leaving from Iran are not permitted to transport weapons. He did not want to provide any additional details, but he confirmed the efforts of his country to deal with the question "in a responsible manner." He said that any other comments could "cause more problems," but confirmed that "we are investigating to see what it is carrying."

On January 28, another Iranian cargo ship transporting weapons to Hamas was blocked by the Egyptian authorities at the entrance to the Suez Canal. Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit criticized Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah of working to fostering the clashes in Gaza in order to provoke conflict all over the Middle East. According to the minister, the situation of tension in the area is to the advantage of Iran, "which is trying to use its cards to escape Western pressure . . . on the nuclear file."

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