[DEBATE] : Greek Govt, under Fire, Cancels U.S. Arms Shipment to Israel from Greek Port of Astakos
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Wed Jan 14 19:46:28 GMT 2009
Greek govt under fire over U.S. arms to Israel
Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:54pm EST
ATHENS/WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Greece's opposition accused the
ruling conservatives on Tuesday of allowing U.S. arms shipments to
Israel via a Greek port for over a year, despite the government's
The U.S. military said on Monday it cancelled the shipment of 325
containers of ammunition from the western Greek port of Astakos to a
U.S. stockpile in Israel, citing safety concerns at the Israeli port
of destination due to the conflict in Gaza.
However, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday the transport had been
cancelled at the request of the Greek government. Reports of the
shipment had provoked a media outcry in Greece, where Israel's
18-day-old offensive in Gaza is deeply unpopular.
"I think the Greek government has some issue with the offloading of
some of that shipment in their country and we are finding alternative
means of getting that entire shipment to its proper destination in
Israel," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
He said the decision to replenish the stockpile, which can be accessed
by Israel with U.S. permission, had been taken long before the
outbreak of the Gaza conflict. Morrell said he did not know if Israel
currently had access to the weapons cache.
Greece's opposition PASOK party submitted questions to parliament
asking whether U.S. arms shipments to Israel via Astakos, which it
said dated back to September 2007, had been approved by the
"Did the foreign ministry and other relevant ministries approve these
shipments or was Greek and international law replaced by practices
that weaken the sovereignty of this country?" read the PASOK
Greece's Communist party and a left-wing coalition have called
demonstrations at Astakos for Wednesday and Thursday.
PASOK said the alleged shipments were organised by a Greek-based
detachment of the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command with the
permission of Greek authorities. It called for all the related
documentation to be made public.
Greece's ruling New Democracy party has said in recent days it has not
allowed supplies to the Israeli army to pass through Greece. It went
further on Tuesday by saying it had not given permission for any U.S.
arms shipments bound for Israel.
"The Greek side didn't allow such a transport," said government
spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, asked about the latest cargo. A
shipping tender issued on Dec. 31 by the U.S. military, a copy of
which was obtained by Reuters, showed the destination of the cargo was
the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry say 971 Palestinians have been killed
in the offensive which Israel launched on Dec. 27 with the stated aim
of ending militant rocket fire from Gaza. On the Israeli side, 10
soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rockets have died.
(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens and Stefano Ambrogi
in London, editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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