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U.S. releases Iranian ship believed to be carrying arms for Gaza

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent Last update – 01:11 28/01/2009

The U.S. navy was forced to release an Iranian boat detained in the Red Sea
on suspicion of carrying arms to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Weapons of various kinds
were found aboard the ship, which was flying the Cypriot flag when it was
stopped January 19.

The ship was released Tuesday when it became apparent that there was no
legal basis for holding it.

At a press conference in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, who heads the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said although American naval personnel boarded the
ship and found the weapons, they had no legal authority to impound the arms.
He suggested that more stringent resolutions by the UN Security Council
would be required, stating clearly that Iran is violating standards against
arms smuggling.

Mullen stressed involving Iran in solving regional problems, including the
deteriorating condition in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that ultimately the
matter should be left to diplomats. With regard to the Obama
administration’s approach to the Iranian threat, he said that the military
option is not off the table, but that it must remain the last option.

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