Greek prime minister say no arms were shipped to Israel
The allegation that the United States had intended to ship arms to Israel via Greece has prompted outrage in the country's political circles. In the latest sign that the crisis has shaken the conservative government, prime minister Kostas Karamanlis has categorically denied that any Greek port has been used in arms shipment to Israel.However, the Greek bloggers and media point out that the US military had been in the process of transhipping 325 containers of "ammunition" (see here for original tender by the Military Sealift Command, Sealift Program Management ) The news sparked a wave of criticism over the possibility of the country's involvement with the events in Gaza as the Israeli campaign is deeply unpopular in Greece and has resulted in a series of massive anti - war protests.
According to Amnesty International the German-owned cargo vessel, Wehr Elbe,
"left the USA on 20 December 2008 with a large consignment - 989 containers - of high explosives and other munitions. Hired and now legally controlled by the US Military Sealift Command, it is destined for the Israeli port of Ashdod and was due to transit via Greece, though its latest reported position indicates that the shipment's route may have changed.'"
Confusion still remains over the exact circumstances of the cancellation of Greek leg of the journey. The Israeli daily, Haaretz quoted Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman as saying that the transhipment had been cancelled due to safety concerns at Ashod, Israel. On the other hand Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told Reuters that the cancellation came as tthe result of a request by the Greek government.
The crisis over possible official involvement in the arms shipment is likely to damage still further the credibility of the ruling New Democacray party which has seen its standing in the polls fall steadily due to a series of graft scandals throughout 2008 and the riots that followed the shooting of a 15 year old by police in Athens in December.
The fact that the prime minister himself felt compelled to deny accusations of aiding Israel in Gaza reflects the possibility that such charges could seriously affect Greece's tradationally cordial relations with the Arab world. Such a possibility would be a set back for the government as high ranking officials have been touring the Middle East in order to find buyers for ailing Greek national airline, Olympic Airways.
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Narita, Chiba, Japan