Barry Schweid / AP Diplomatic Writer – 2006-10-30 09:03:19
(October 27, 2006) — The United States and five other countries will intercept a British vessel in the Persian Gulf on Monday in a mock interception of dangerous weapons technology, an exercise the US expects nearby Iran to notice.
For the first time, an Arab nation — Bahrain — will participate in an exercise under the 3-year-old proliferation security initiative. That US program is aimed at getting countries to cooperate in halting shipments of materials that can be used for advanced weapons.
France, Italy, Britain and Australia will also participate in Monday’s exercise, the 25th held under the initiative and the first held in the Persian Gulf area.
The practice interception comes at a time when the U.S. is seeking support for UN sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. On Friday, Iran stepped up its uranium enrichment program, according to a semiofficial news agency.
“From Iranian news reports we know the exercise got the attention of Iran,” Robert Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said Friday.
The exercise also comes as the U.S. is urging northeast Asian countries to strictly enforce U.N. sanctions against North Korea, which detonated a nuclear device Oct. 9. Those sanctions ban Pyongyang’s weapons trade and call for North Korean ships to be searched for suspected illegal materials.
The Bush administration and the several dozen countries that support the proliferation initiative say stopping ships suspected of carrying illicit traffic is legal internationally. But there is some uncertainty about whether the cargo can be seized.
In any event, conducting an exercise within range of Iran could be taken by Tehran as a demonstration of international resolve to curb its nuclear programs.
Bahrain will provide a frigate for the exercise, while Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, three other Arab countries, also will offer a measure of support, acting as observers. Others include Russia, Japan and South Korea. Saudi Arabia, the largest of the Gulf countries, has not joined them.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press
IDF: No Shots Fired in IAF Incident with German Ship
Amos Harel and Gideon Alon / Haaretz and Reuters
TEL AVIV (October 25, 2006) — An Israel Defense Forces spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that Israel Air Force jets had been involved in an incident with a German vessel and helicopter, but denied reports that the jets had fired shots over the ship.
The Germany daily Der Tagesspiegel earlier on Wednesday quoted a junior German defense minister as telling a parliamentary committee that two Israeli F-16 fighters flew low over the German ship and fired two shots.
The jets also activated infra-red countermeasures to ward off any rocket attack, the paper quoted him as saying, in an advance release from Thursday’s edition.
The IDF spokesman denied that the air force had attacked a ship or opened fire in the vicinity, but said that IAF jets had been launched early Tuesday when a helicopter took off from a German aircraft carrier in waters close to Rosh Hanikra without identifying itself in accordance with United Nations regulations. The incident was quickly solved without confrontation, the spokesman said, and only flares were fired.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday denied the reports in a call to his German counterpart, Franz Jozef Jung, and said Israel had no reason to attack German forces. He also said that Israel wanted to increase its coordination with UNIFIL forces in preventative actions. UNIFIL told Channel Two Wednesday that it had received no complaint of Israeli fire.
Germany assumed command of a United Nations naval force off Lebanon 10 days ago, and has sent eight ships and 1,000 service personnel to join the international peace operation in the region.
The naval force is charged with preventing the smuggling of weapons and helping maintain a ceasefire between Israel and the Lebanese Islamic militant group Hezbollah.
Peretz said earlier Wednesday that the IAF would continue to patrol Lebanese skies in an effort to gather information and prevent terror groups from smuggling weapons from Syria into Lebanon.
Peretz raised the issue on the Knesset plenum agenda, saying, “we see ourselves not just as free, but as having the right to continue carrying out these necessary flights, as part of our challenge against the flow of arms from the Syrian-Lebanese border.”
The defense minister added that in light of Israel’s desire to coordinate these efforts with Lebanon, it had reduced the scope of the flights to a minimum. He said the flights were being carried out with precision to avoid friction with United Nations troops and the Lebanese army. He said the flights presented no threat to the peace or security of the international forces deployed in Lebanon.
In response to threats by French forces to open fire on IAF overflights, Peretz said, “we will in no way take these threats, and we’ve made that clear in conversations with all parties.”
The defense minister said that since the end of the war the Hezbollah has been involved with the rehabilitation of the Lebanese infrastructure, has attempted to smuggle weapons through the Lebanese-Syrian border, and has continued to try to harness aid from external sources. Hezbollah had maintained its stronghold in southern Lebanese areas still closed off to UNIFIL and Lebanese forces.
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