Multinational forces have diverted two ships, allegedly carrying petroleum products illegally out of Iraq, to the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. navy official said.
U.S. Coast Guard Commander Don Bunn said
that Navy Seals boarded the vessels Jinan and Milad 1 in the Gulf on Oct. 12 and diverted them to the Abu Dhabi emirate in the UAE.
He said the ships had refused to follow directions issued to facilitate inspections ensuring compliance with U.N. sanctions. "Petroleum products were on both of them, illegally taken out of Iraq," Bunn said.
Last week, Iraq accused United States forces
of piracy and said U.S. Marines dropped onto the ships by helicopter and attacked the crew.
U.S. and allied forces, which launched the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq, patrol the Gulf to ensure U.N. trade sanctions imposed on Baghdad for the invasion of Kuwait are implemented.
The stringent sanctions ban Iraq from
exporting its oil and other commodities and prevent imports of non-humanitarian goods. Since 1996 the United Nations has allowed Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to buy food and medicine for its population.
Bunn said there had been a recent increase in violations of trade sanctions by vessels, mostly carrying oil.
"Economics would certainly be one consideration," Bunn said. "If you look at (the rise in) oil prices...there is an incentive to sell oil, cover expenses and still make a profit."
He said that, so far this year, multinational forces had queried 2,022 ships, boarded 590 and diverted seven, including the Jinan and Milad 1.