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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Sudan hits out at ship's seizure
Baltic Sky
The Baltic Sky had been on a long odyssey around the Mediterranean
The Sudanese Government has criticised Greece for seizing a ship loaded with explosives which it says were for civilian use.

The Baltic Sky set sail from Tunisia carrying 680 tons of explosives - it was described as a floating atomic bomb, when it was stormed by special forces off Greece's western coast on Sunday.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail said the ship was carrying ammonium nitrates ordered by a Sudanese company and destined for cement factories and road-building firms.

Mr Ismail said he had asked officials to summon the Greek ambassador in Khartoum to come and see the documents relating to the shipment and to let him know of Sudan's displeasure over the seizing of the ship.

13 May: Left Tunisian port of Gabes for Port Sudan
21 May: Passes through Dardanelles Straits
2 June: Docks in Istanbul
5 June: Leaves for Suez
6-22 June: Zigzags around the Aegean Sea
22 June: Boarded by Greek forces in southern Ionian Sea
The head of a Sudanese chemical firm told the BBC the shipment was destined for his business - the Integrated Chemicals and Development Company.

Greek officials said documents on board the ship linked it to the company but their initial inquiries indicated the firm did not exist.

Isam Bakry al-Khalifa, the executive manager of the Sudanese firm, said it was not true that the destination of the shipment was unknown.

He said every box on the ship had a tag showing the name, address and telephone numbers of the company in Khartoum.

But Greek Shipping Minister George Anomeritis said the ship's manifest showed that cargo was officially bound for a company with "a post office box in Khartoum that did not exist".

A Tunisian company has filed a complaint against the owner of the Baltic Sky saying it had a contract with them to deliver the explosives to the Integrated Chemicals and Development Company, based in Khartoum.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail
Ismail: Intends to let Greek ambassador know of his displeasure

The Societe Tunisienne d'Explosifs et Munitions (Sotemu) said the transaction was approved by Sudanese authorities.

Sotemu accused the Baltic Sky of diverting the cargo from its original route.

Documents from the ship described the cargo as ANFO, a commercially-manufactured ammonia nitrate-based explosive usually used in mining.

But Mr Anomeritis described the ship's cargo as akin to "an atomic bomb".

The crew of seven - five Ukrainians and two Azeris - have been charged with possession and transport of explosives - an offence which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

They have also been charged with failing to notify Greek authorities 24 hours in advance that they were transporting explosives into Greek waters.

Heightened alert

The ship's location when it was stopped suggested it was not heading towards Khartoum.

It had apparently been sailing around the Mediterranean for six weeks before being impounded.

It had loaded 450 pallets of TNT and 8,000 detonators in Gabes, Tunisia on 12 May, Mr Anomeritis said.

It was boarded in the Ionian Sea following a tip-off and then forced into the tiny Greek port of Platiyali, 235 kilometres (145 miles) north-west of Athens.

The discovery of the cargo comes amid heightened terror alerts in East Africa and elsewhere.

Anti-terrorist forces and army bomb experts have begun examining the cargo.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"The Greeks said it's route looked decidedly suspicious"

Storm surrounds ship's cargo
24 Jun 03  |  Europe
Greece seizes explosives ship
23 Jun 03  |  Europe

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