Syria: Ship Carried 'Goods' not Arms

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BEIRUT - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the Iranian ship intercepted by Israel yesterday was transporting goods, not arms.

"This ship did not carry Iranian arms to Syria, but goods," Moallem told reporters at a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran.

"There was no military equipment to produce weapons in Syria on board [the ship]," Moallem said.

As the press conference was taking place in Tehran, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman summoned foreign ambassadors to the port at Ashdod to view a sampling of the vast weapons cache, which had been packed in containers and stacked behind civilian cargo.

Meanwhile once the hundreds of tons of weapons were unloaded, Israeli authorities released the Francop and its 11-member crew after determining they were not aware of the weapons cache that had been hidden on board.

In Beirut, Hezbollah issued a statement claiming they had no knowledge of the shipment and accusing "Israeli pirates of operating in international waters."

"Hezbollah categorically denies it has any connection with the weapons the Zionist enemy claims it seized aboard the Francop ship," read a statement faxed to The Associated Press in Beirut.

On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submitted a report to the U.N. Security Council stating they had no ability to independently verify Israeli claims of weapons smuggling to Hezbollah, though they took the allegations seriously.

According to Ban, the Lebanese government has not reported even one incident of weapons smuggling, either by land, sea or air, to the United Nations.

Israeli Military Intelligence estimates that Hezbollah has doubled its missile arsenal since the end of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006.

 According to Israel, both Syria and Iran are supplying the Lebanese-based terror organization with missiles and other weaponry.

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