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Cyprus looks to UN for next move on suspected arms ship

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    Cyprus looks to UN for next move on suspected arms ship By Anna Hassapi Cyprus Mail Tue, 03 Feb 2009 21:26 UTC
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2009
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      Cyprus looks to UN for next move on suspected arms ship
      By Anna Hassapi
      Cyprus Mail
      Tue, 03 Feb 2009 21:26 UTC

      Cyprus has sent a written request to the Sanctions Committee of the
      UN Security Council, for advice on handling the cargo of the Russian-
      owned ship docked off the Limassol coastline since last week. The
      vessel is suspected to be carrying arms and munitions from Iran.

      Due to the committee's requirement for unanimous voting - and
      Russia's veto power - it is feared that the issue will lead to
      deadlock, passing the ball back to the Cypriot court for a decision.

      "We are carefully handling the situation, based on international
      conventions and agreements - and not based on what a third country
      possibly wants," said Stefanos Stefanou, state spokesman, referring
      to the reported pressure on Cyprus by the US and Israel to confiscate
      Monchegorsk's cargo.

      State broadcaster CyBC yesterday said that Israeli Defence Minister
      Ehud Barak was in constant contact with his US counterparts over the
      affair, adding that Israel now believed the arms were heading for

      Stefanou declined to comment on reports that Israeli Foreign Minister
      Tzipi Livni made a telephone call to her Cypriot counterpart Markos
      Kyprianou, asking that the Cypriot government confiscate the vessel's
      cargo, which Israel believes includes rockets, missiles, and
      munitions for Russian T-72 tanks.

      The US and Israel also suspect that the vessel's cargo would supply
      Hamas and Hezbollah, although Israel reportedly admitted that this
      suspicion has not been confirmed yet. Meanwhile, Russia insists that
      Syria was the cargo's intended recipient and that nothing illegal has
      taken place.

      "The weapons found so far on board were apparently not intended for
      Hamas, but for the Syrian army. However, there are still 30 to 40
      containers to be checked. From our perspective the question is
      whether they contain other things intended for Hezbollah or Hamas,"
      Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying in Haaretz.

      President Demetris Christofias yesterday expressed his wish that the
      matter will soon be concluded

      "Things are evolving and when we have something to say on the matter,
      we will say it," President Demetris Christofias said last night

      "It is possible that it may come to a close tonight but it may not.
      We shall have a final conclusion of the matter within the next few
      days," the President explained.

      Political party leaders yesterday expressed their support to the
      government's stance of referring the matter to the UN, instead of
      taking a unilateral decision based on third country prescriptions.

      "Israel is asking what it is asking. The matter is complicated and
      multi-dimensional. It is not as simple as it looks," said DIKO
      President Marios Garoyian.

      "The government is handling the matter in a delicate way so as not to
      affect Cyprus' interests. The state should take the UN's opinion, see
      whether there is a breach of Security Council Decisions and then
      decide on further handling. The US cannot act as a global policeman,
      violating international law," said AKEL General Secretary Andros

      Referring the matter to the Sanctions Committee, however, is not
      expected to produce quick results.

      The 15-member committee, comprising both permanent and revolving
      members of the Security Council, must vote on the issue unanimously,
      before any decision is made.

      In cases where unanimity is not achieved, the committee's president
      can set up consultations between involved countries (in this case
      Russia, the US and Cyprus) until agreement is reached.

      The current Chairman of the Committee is Japanese Ambassador Yukio
      Takasu, and the two Vice-Chairs for 2009 are Burkina Faso and Costa
      Rica. Upon receiving Cyprus' notification regarding the suspect
      vessel, Takasu will call a committee meeting within a maximum of five

      If an agreement is not reached, the matter will then be referred to
      the Security Council, where permanent members have veto power. As
      both Russia and the US are permanent members, there is a possibility
      that a decision may not be reached.

      In this case, Cyprus will bear the onus of deciding whether
      Monchegorsk's cargo should be confiscated, or whether the ship should
      be allowed to continue its journey.

      The Iran Sanctions Committee was formed to oversee the implementation
      of three related resolutions against Iran: 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007)
      and 1803 (2008).

      The resolutions provide for a nuclear and ballistic missile
      programmes-related embargo, an export ban on arms and related
      material from Iran, as well as individual sanctions including, a
      travel ban, a travel notification requirement, and an assets freeze
      on designated persons and entities.

      In reference to searching suspect vessels, resolution 1803 calls
      members to inspect at airports and ports the cargoes to and from Iran
      of aircraft and vessels owned and operated by two specific Iranian
      companies. Cyprus has signed and adopted all three resolutions.

      Under the Papadopoulos administration, Cyprus also signed an
      agreement with the US, which allows the US Navy to search any vessel
      under the Cypriot flag, at any location in the world, if there is
      suspicion that it is carrying illegal cargo.

      The non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction agreement was
      signed in 2005 by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
      then Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou.



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