U.S. Navy Intercepts Tanker Suspected Of Carrying Iraqi Oil With AM-Gulf-Iraq
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ U.S. warships intercepted a Greek tanker Thursday that was suspected of trying to smuggle more than $2 million worth of oil out of Iraq in violation of a U.N. embargo.
The interception came amid a U.S. military buildup in the Gulf countering menacing Iraqi moves toward Kuwait.
Cmdr. T. McReary, spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, identified the tanker as the Katerina P. The ship, flying a Liberian flag, was stopped 15 miles off Iran in the northern Persian Gulf.
Sweeping sanctions imposed on Iraq after its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait prohibit all trade with Baghdad, excluding food and medical supplies.
Oil sales, Iraq’s main source of revenue, were halted by the embargo, leaving the country’s economy in tatters. Baghdad has never been caught trying to smuggle out oil.
McReary said that Navy frigate USS Reid first challenged the ship by radio, then sent a team of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy personnel to board the vessel. It was not immediately clear why the ship was considered suspect.
Servicemen discovered more than 146,000 barrels of oil thought to be from Iraq, he said. The tanker is believed to have called on Iraq’s Khor az-Zubayr port on the northern end of the gulf.
The ship had no log entries after Oct. 5, no paperwork for the cargo and its charts did not match the course its crew described, McReary said.
The tanker was to be taken to another, undetermined port for further investigation, he said.
The U.S. Navy leads a multinational force enforcing the sanctions.
Since Aug. 18, 1990, more than 20,000 vessels have been challenged by radio to provide their port of origin, their destination and their cargo.
About half have been boarded, but only 500 or so have been diverted for further inspection.
Baghdad has been trying to get the U.N. embargo eased so it could sell oil again freely.
It maintains it has complied with the terms of the Security Council cease- fire resolution. But the United States and Britain insist it first improve its human rights record and recognize the sovereignty of Kuwait.