Finland halts tank components shipping to Syria: report

2013-02-17 00:06:13 GMT2013-02-17 08:06:13(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

A container of suspected weapon components heading towards Syria was confiscated by the Finnish Customs last month, the popular Finnish newspaper Helsingin News reported on Saturday.

The goods in the container were most likely components of an armored personnel carrier, said the report, adding the customs officers are investigating into the case.

The container was shipped by Finnsun, a vessel owned by the Finnish shipping company Finnlines. Initial information indicated that the shipment was loaded in St. Petersburg, Russia on Dec. 20, 2012, before it started off.

According to Finnline, some of the crew members noticed the tank components when the shipment was routinely checked in Antwerp, Belgium on Jan. 3. The company then decided neither to unload the shipment in Antwerp nor to return it to St. Petersburg, but to transport it to Finland.

The vessel arrived in the Port of Vuosaari, Helsinki on Jan. 8. The customs officers conducted a routine check and found the suspected weapon components. The total weight of the shipment was 9,627 kg.

However, the authenticity of the Finnline's statement has not been confirmed by the Finnish Customs.

Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja said that no one had requested any permits to use Finland as a transshipment point for the goods,and Finland had not issued any permission for transshipment of the weapon components.

The European Union (EU) prohibits any export or transition of weapons and weapon components to Syria.

Preliminary investigation indicated that three captains and one first mate of the vessel Finnsun were suspected to have violated the EU's export prohibitions on military equipments to Syria. Finnish Customs said that all the suspects were Finns, but further investigation was still needed.

Over 283,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon: UN

At least 283,000 Syrian refugees are currently in Lebanon, receiving aid from the Lebanese government, the United Nations and some NGOs, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Saturday.

The UN agency said in its weekly report that "185,000 refugees have been registered so far, while 98,000 are waiting to be added to the list soon." "Syrians are arriving at a steady rate and we were able to register more than 10,000 persons this week." it said.

A total of 87,887 Syrian refugees are registered in north Lebanon, 71,291 in the eastern Bekaa, and 25,822 in Beirut and south Lebanon, it added.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres had said last week that the number of people fleeing fighting in Syria could reach 1.1 million by June, and called on the international community to support a one-billion-U.S. dollar plan pushed by the UN and other international groups so as to address the needs of the displaced Syrians.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is "the most dramatic crisis we are facing today," he said, adding that developed nations, including those in Europe, need to accept more refugees, as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon have done.

7 Syrian refugees cross border to Israel for medical treatment

Seven wounded Syrian refugees escaping from Syria were taken into Israel and evacuated to an Israeli hospital on Saturday, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson confirmed to Xinhua.

The seven, among a group of refugees escaping the ongoing unrest in their country, approached the Syrian-Israeli border, where they were taken in by Israeli soldiers.

According to the IDF, the soldiers gave initial treatment to the refugees who were severely wounded and then evacuated them in military ambulances to the Ziv hospital in Safed, some 30 km away from the border.

Both military and government officials on Saturday said the incident does not suggest a change of Israel's policy toward the Syrian refugees.

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon told the Channel 2 news that Saturday's event was an isolated event and that similar incidents would be examined each case by its own merits.

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Editor: Mei Jingya
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