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Tanks Intercepted by Germany May Still Find Way to Syria

February 7, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A cargo of 16 Soviet-model T-72 tanks bound for Syria may still get there, even though the German freighter carrying them was stopped by a German navy frigate in the Mediterranean and ordered back to its Polish port of embarkation.

The ship, Gotewind, made an unscheduled stop at Cartagena, Spain, where the Czechoslovak-made tanks were transshipped Tuesday to another vessel, the Nils, apparently bound for their original destination, Latakia, Syria.

The German government made much of the interception last week and of its threat to prosecute the ship’s owners for violating export regulations and transporting arms without a license.

But Bonn seems to have succumbed to pressure from Damascus and Prague.

Czechoslovakia, strapped for cash, is believed to have sold 300 T-72 tanks to the Syrians, a transaction disapproved by President Vaclav Havel, who vowed it would be the last.

The tanks were manufactured in the Slovak portion of the Czechoslovak federation, where high unemployment feeds separatist sentiments.

The German government, which last week boasted of stopping the Gotewind with its “illegal” cargo, now says there was no legal basis to interfere with the Czechoslovak-Syrian transaction. A spokesman insisted, however, that German ships would not be allowed to carry the arms.

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