Thursday, August 17, 2006

Iranian Planes Grounded in Turkey for Weapons Search

Turkey has grounded two Syria-bound Iranian planes over the past month to search for weapons following Israeli intelligence that Iran is supplying rockets to Hezbollah, officials and media reports said Thursday.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Namik Tan said two Iranian cargo planes were forced to land in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir "in line with international rules" to search for rockets and other military equipment. READ MORE

"It was a routine procedure," Tan told a press conference.

He was commenting on a report in the mass-circulation Hurriyet daily, which said that two Iranian planes flying to Syria were forced to land in Diyarbakir on July 27 and August 8 following an Israeli tip-off that they were carrying rockets destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

No military equipment was discovered in either of the aircraft, the newspaper said.

Ankara sought to keep the incidents secret out of concern that diplomatic relations with Iran might suffer, it added.

Turkey is one of Israel's few Muslim friends in the region. But it also has close ties with the Palestinians and Lebanon and has in recent years significantly mended fences with one-time foes Iran and Syria.