U.S. spokesman: Navy resuming interception of Iraqi vessels

Published July 29th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

After an eight-year break, a U.S.-led naval coalition is resuming inspection of vessels in the northern Red Sea because United Nations sanctions against Iraq are being broken in the area, a U.S. Navy spokesman said Sunday.  


The decision is opposed by Jordan, which is Iraq's largest trading partner and which complained in the past that the monitoring hindered its trade, according to AP.  


Lt. Chris Davis, a spokesman with the Bahrain-based fifth Fleet, refused to elaborate on the nature of the "sanctions-busting." Coalition forces in the Persian Gulf region long have been trying to prevent Iraqi oil smuggling and stop Iraq-bound cargo ships, except those carrying approved food, medical supplies or humanitarian items.  


"There was sufficient evidence for us to believe that we should expand our interception operation to the northern Red Sea," Davis said.  


A British warship was assigned on July 9th to monitor vessels outside Jordan's lone sea port at Aqaba, Davis said. Fifth Fleet commanders would not confirm if the ship had arrived.  


A Jordanian Cabinet official said Jordan has not been informed of any U.S. decision to expand the monitoring operation to just offshore. But, Amman would oppose such measures because it already adheres to the letter and spirit of U.N. sanctions on Iraq, he said. (Albawaba.com) 

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