The US Fifth Fleet denied Friday that an Iraqi sanctions-busting tanker had been fired upon, causing it to spill oil in the Gulf waters by the United Arab Emirates near the site of a major oil slick last week.
Asked whether the Multinational Interception Force (MIF) had fired on 'The Diamond', Commander Jeff Gradeck of the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet told AFP: "that is not true."
Gradeck said it was not standard procedure, adding that the vessel "was accepted Thursday by the Emirati government. It is no longer in the holding area and is at the disposition of the Emirati government."
A UAE environmental official had said Thursday, April 22, that oil was escaping from the ship after being hit Sunday by bullets from the MIF, a US-led Western naval force that has enforced sanctions on Iraq at sea since the 1991 Gulf War.
A first Iraqi vessel, 'The Zainab', was heading for Pakistan Saturday when the US navy intercepted it as part of efforts to enforce UN sanctions on Baghdad. The navy escorted the 36-year-old vessel to the spot where it sank off the coast of Dubai, causing Emirati authorities to treat the oil spill. The Gulf's fragile sea environment is frequently exposed to oil-tanker traffic and is subject to little environmental regulation. —(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)