Cyprus unloaded a cargo of banned weapons-related material on Friday off a ship from Iran found to be in violation of U.N. arms sanctions and which Israel charged was carrying weapons to the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.
Diplomatic sources say the Monchegorsk is carrying conventional weapons. The cargo will be stored in Cyprus, a government statement said.
"The Republic of Cyprus has decided to unload the material on the ship Monchegorsk and keep it on Cyprus," the statement said."
The Republic of Cyprus has already informed the U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee of its decision. No risk is involved in keeping the cargo," it said, without elaborating.
The ship has been detained off Cyprus, its flag-state, since Jan. 29 after it was boarded by U.S. naval personnel in the Red Sea. U.S. military authorities said the ship was travelling to Syria from Iran and had been carrying arms.
According to state radio, the arms were being ferried by 15 trucks under tight police escort to be stored at an army base further along the southern coast of Cyprus.
Iran denied that the ship was carrying weapons to Gaza, as reported in the Israeli media.
"The ship was not taking arms and weapons (to Gaza)," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghasghavi told a news conference.
Israeli media reported that Monchegorsk was suspected of carrying Iranian arms for Gaza or for Hezbollah in Lebanon and was detained by the Cypriot authorities in response to requests from United States and Israel.
Cypriot and U.N. Security Council sources say the ship was carrying material from Iran prohibited under U.N. resolutions. Iran has denied the ship was carrying weapons.
Sending the shipment back to Iran had been ruled out by the Cyprus government.
Iran is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program, which Western powers suspect is aimed at making bombs but which Tehran says is for generating electricity.
(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)