Britain: Russian ship reportedly carrying arms to Syria turns back

William-hagueLONDON -- The British foreign secretary said Tuesday that a Russian ship carrying refurbished attack helicopters to Syria had turned back after a British company stripped the vessel of its insurance.

"We have in place a European Union arms embargo on Syria.... We've had discussion with Russia about that specifically, and I'm pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has now turned back, apparently towards Russia," William Hague told the House of Commons.

The British insurance company reportedly canceled its insurance coverage upon learning that the cargo ship Alaed was carrying munitions to Syria. Carrying the weapons violated its rules, the company told the Associated Press.

Russia is a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Moscow has continued to supply weapons to Syria despite the insistence of Britain and the United States that it stop.

Russian officials have argued that they are only sending defense equipment that cannot be used against protesters. Britain says the continued flow of weapons has fueled bloodshed in Syria.

“We are working closely with international partners to ensure that we are doing all we can to stop the Syrian regime's ability to slaughter civilians being reinforced through assistance from other countries,” the British Foreign Office said in a Tuesday statement.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently charged that Russian shipments of attack helicopters would dramatically escalate the conflict in Syria, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives. Though the State Department later acknowledged that the helicopters were not new but refurbished ones that Syria already owned, her rebuke was another sign of the tensions between Russia and the U.S. over the crisis.

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-- Henry Chu in London and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, shown during a visit to Pakistan early this month, told the House of Commons on Tuesday that a Russian ship reportedly carrying arms to Syria had turned back after losing its insurance. Credit: Aamir Qureshi / Agence France-Press / Getty Images.

 
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