Iranian trucks carrying missile materials intercepted en route to Syria

Iranian trucks carrying missile materials intercepted en route to Syria

Turkish authorities have seized five trucks suspected of carrying arms from Iran to Syria over the past few days. (Photo: AA)

January 20, 2012, Friday/ 14:47:00

Four Iranian trucks were stopped two weeks ago in Turkey's Kilis province on the border with Syria and were found to be carrying raw materials used in the making of ballistic missiles, Turkish daily Taraf has reported.

Four trucks with Iranian license plates were intercepted by Turkish authorities two weeks ago at the Öncüpınar Border Gate in Kilis province, which lies to the north of Syria, a country to which Turkey has been blocking the delivery of arms shipments since pro-democracy protests turned bloody in the Arab country.

Although the contents of the trucks were not publicized by customs officials, Taraf stated that on Friday it obtained reports confirming the trucks' dangerous load. According to the daily, one of the trucks was carrying four six-meter-long cylindrical tanks and heat-resistant materials, while the other three were carrying 66 tons of sodium sulfate, all of which were on their way to Syria possibly to be used in the making of chemical missiles.

Turkey has dispatched a scientific team to study the materials and the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has also requested to be informed of the contents of the trucks' loads, Taraf noted. Diplomatic sources confirmed that the trucks carried a load that was in violation of a UN embargo on Syria, but that the responsibility of finding out where the trucks originated from was Iran's.

Details on the documents obtained from the trucks suggested that the materials belonged to a leather company in Tehran and that they were being delivered to a person in Aleppo, Syria, for leather production. Taraf has claimed that the same materials can be used in the production of chemical weapons and that the leather company is likely a cover up, recalling that thousands of people were killed by chemical weapons in Syria in 1982.

In September Turkey announced that it would increase inspections of cross-border traffic in order to block arms deliveries to Syria, a move that was immediately met by the Syrian regime's suspension of a free-trade agreement between Turkey and Syria dating back to 2006.

Turkey intercepted an arms shipment from Iran to Syria in August, and in March Turkish authorities seized the cargo of an Iranian plane bound for Syria because the shipment violated UN sanctions. Turkish media said the aircraft was carrying light weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket launchers and mortars.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in late September of last year that a Syrian-flagged ship carrying arms to Syria had been intercepted, but did not elaborate on the contents of the ship. Erdoğan had said at the time that Turkey vowed to stop and confiscate any arms shipment to Syria, both by air and land. Last year, a truck said to be full of explosives was held by Turkish authorities for 10 months before eventually being transferred to a military warehouse and no statement has been made to the public so far regarding what it was carrying.

The Iranian Embassy in Ankara denied that the four trucks still being held in Turkey were carrying military equipment from Iran to Syria. The drivers of the trucks also denied allegations that they were carrying arms, stating that their cargo consisted of raw materials used in the leather industry, water pipes and iron.

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