Saturday, December 31, 2011

Iran Keeps Tensions High Over Oil Strait

TEHRAN - Iran kept tensions simmering Dec. 31 over its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers by readying war game missile tests near the entrance to the Persian Gulf.
AN IRANIAN WAR-BOAT fires a missile Dec. 30 during the 'Velayat-90' navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz. (Ali Mohammadi / AFP via Getty Images)
Washington has warned a closure of the strait "will not be tolerated" after Iranian Vice President Reza Rahimi's threat this week that "not a drop of oil" will pass through the channel if more Western sanctions are imposed over Tehran's nuclear program.
Iran has brushed off the warning from the United States, which bases its Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, with Iranian navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayari saying it would be "really easy" to close the strait.
A spokesman for the Iranian navy, Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi, told state television on Dec. 31 that, "in the next days, we will test-fire all kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles" in the final stages of the war games.
He did not say exactly when the launches would start, but explained they would involve tests of "medium- and long-range missiles" to evaluate their operational effectiveness.
The navy exercises started Dec. 24 and are due to end on Jan. 2.
Twenty percent of the world's oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the Gulf, making it the "most important chokepoint" globally, according to information released Dec. 30 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Around 14 crude oil tankers per day pass through the narrow strait, carrying a total 17 million barrels. In all, 35 percent of all seaborne oil transited through there this year.
On Dec. 29, a U.S. aircraft carrier and an accompanying missile cruiser passed through the zone where the Iranian navy was conducting its drill. U.S. officials insisted it was a routine passage.
No confrontation occurred, though an Iranian military aircraft flew in close to record video of the aircraft carrier, which was then shown on state television.
Analysts and oil market traders have been watching developments in and around the Strait of Hormuz carefully, fearing that the intensifying war of words between arch foes Tehran and Washington could spark open confrontation.
With tensions rising, the United States said it has signed a $29.4-billion dealto supply Iran's chief rival in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, with 84 new fighter jets.
The sale was a "strong message" to the Gulf region, Washington said.
Iran is subject to four rounds of U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program, which many Western countries allege is being used to develop atomic weapons.
Tehran denies the allegation.
The United States and its allies have also imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran's economy.
The last lot of unilateral sanctions triggered a demonstration in Tehran that led to members of the Basij militia controlled by the Revolutionary Guards ransacking the British embassy. London reacted by closing the mission and ordering Iran's embassy in Britain closed.
More sanctions are on the way.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to soon sign into law additional restrictions on Iran's central bank, which acts as the main conduit for Iranian oil sales.
The European Union is considering other measures that could include an EU embargo on Iranian oil imports, with foreign ministers to meet on the issue in a month's time.
Iran's oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, told the Aseman weekly that sanctions "will drive up the price of oil to at least 200 dollar" per barrel.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was quoted by the Iranian media telling Islamic republic's envoys who have been gathered in Tehran that "we will give a resounding and many-pronged response to any threat against the Islamic Republic of Iran."
But he and other officials also left the door open to resuming long-stalled talks on Iran's nuclear program.
Addressing world powers involved in the talks, Jalili said: "We officially told them to come back to the negotiation based on cooperation."
Iran's ambassador to Germany, Alireza Sheikh-Attar, told the Mehr news agency on Dec. 31 that "we will soon send a letter, after which (new) talks will be scheduled."
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was also quoted by a website of the state broadcaster as telling a visiting Chinese foreign ministry official that "Iran is prepared for the continuation of nuclear negotiations" on the basis of a Russian proposal.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lockheed Wins Contract for UAE Anti-Missile System

Washington - The Pentagon awarded U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. with a $1.96 billion contract Dec. 30 to supply the United Arab Emirates with a missile defense system.
Under the contract, Lockheed will deliver two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or Thaad systems that include radar, interceptors and launchers, according to a Pentagon statement.
The project is part of President Barack Obama's plans to build up a regional defense in the Middle East to counter Iran's growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.
Under the plan, land-based interceptors would be tied in with a detection network on U.S. Navy Aegis-class warships.
UAE is the first country to purchase the expensive Thaad system.
The announcement came amid rising tensions with Iran and a day after the United States confirmed the signing of a $30 billion arms deal to provide another Gulf ally - Saudi Arabia - with 84 new fighter jets.

Boeing Wins Contract for U.S. Missile Shield

WASHINGTON - Boeing won a $3.48 billion contract to retain its leading role in building a U.S. shield against long-range ballistic missiles, defeating rival Lockheed Martin Corp., officials said Dec. 30.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency announced the decision for the seven-year contract in which Boeing will test, engineer and manufacture the system designed to thwart potential attacks from intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Chicago-based Boeing was joined by partner Northrop Grumman, which will oversee the ground system and other aspects of the project, Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing offered "innovative solutions and a cost-effective approach to program management and execution," said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security.
Lockheed, based in Bethesda, Md., had hoped to edge out Boeing, which has been the prime contractor for the anti-missile program since 2001.
The ground-based mid-course missile defense system has had a mixed record on missile tests, with two failures in 2010. The program has also faced cost overruns due to faulty parts, and the Pentagon is now requiring contractors to absorb the cost of defects in the future.

Turkish Leaders Struggle with Airstrike Aftermath

ANKARA - Turkey's government is struggling to contain the fall-out from a blunder in which the military killed 35 young Kurdish smugglers in an air strike they thought was directed at Kurdish separatist militants.
KURDISH PEOPLE MOURN for victims of a Turkish air raid at the cemetery of Gulyazi Village, Sirnak province, near the Iraqi border on Dec. 30. (Bulent Kilic / AFP via Getty Images)
The conservative, Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has followed previous administrations in cracking down on the separatist rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). But it is no closer to finding a solution to the complaints of the country's substantial Kurdish minority.
Turkey's military said they directed Dec. 28's air strike near the Iraqi border against what they thought was a group of around 40 fighters from the PKK, with whom they have been involved in a bitter, decades-long conflict.
When the dust cleared, however, the bodies were of local villagers - most of them between the ages of 16 and 20 - who had been smuggling cigarettes and fuel across the border.
Grief-stricken, enraged local villagers had denounced the attack within hours; local television pictures showed them using mules to carry the dead down off the snow-covered mountains in Uludere district.
But while the AKP conceded Dec. 29 that there could have been a blunder, it took until Dec. 30 for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to unequivocally acknowledge the mistake.
Expressing regret for the killing of 35 Kurds, he offered his condolences to the victims for what he described as an "unfortunate and distressing" incident.
At the same time, however, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that Turkey was engaged an anti-terrorist operation against the PKK while respecting the rule of law. The blunder Dec. 28 had been an exception, he said.
Media commentators and opposition politicians were scathing of the AKP's handling of the crisis.
"The state bombed its own people," was the headline in the liberal daily Taraf.
Fikret Bila, a columnist with Milliyet newspaper, remarked on CNN-Turk television: "The government is always readying to take credit, notably for economic successes.
"One wonders why no one has apologized on behalf of the government."
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), called for the government to act - and for those responsible to resign.
The outrage within the Kurdish community itself expressed itself in protests in several cities Dec. 29 and 30, with some protesters clashing with the police.
Down near the border with Iraq, some bereaved villagers dismissed talk of an error, accusing the army of having deliberately targeted the civilians. The PKK itself made the same case.
"This massacre was no accident ... It was organized and planned," Bahoz Erdal of the PKK's armed wing said in a statement.
The PKK took up arms in Kurdish-majority southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has claimed about 45,000 lives. But clashes between the rebels and the army have escalated in recent months, with Turkey raiding PKK bases inside northern Iraq in October in response to an attack that killed 24 soldiers in the border town of Cukurca.
"The government cannot, must not have this affair covered up," Rusen Cakir,a specialist on the Kurdish issue, wrote in the Vatan newspaper. "To do so would only spur the PKK on to step up its attacks."
After he came to power in 2002, Erdogan pushed through important reforms granting greater rights to the Kurds, who make up 15 million of the nation's 73 million population. But after the heavy losses suffered by Turkey's army in October, he bowed to public pressure and hardened his line against the Kurdish rebels.
Resolving the Kurdish conflict remains one of the toughest challenges facing Turkey, the world's 17th-largest economy and a major regional player. The air strike Dec. 28 only made that task harder.

Thatcher Warned Over Navy Before Falklands Invasion

LONDON - Prime minister Margaret Thatcher was warned about the risks in slashing Britain's navy, a year before the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, secret files released Dec. 30 showed.
Her foreign secretary Lord Peter Carrington also warned defense secretary John Nott that axing Britain's Antarctic patrol ship would send all the wrong signals about London's willingness to defend the Falklands.
Documents released after 30 years locked away in Britain's National Archives showed that the head of the Royal Navy was fuming in 1981 about planned defense cuts.
First sea lord Adm. Henry Leach, who later told Thatcher that Britain could and should send a naval task force to retake the Falklands following the April 1982 invasion, was furious with her a year earlier over her "unbalanced devastation" of the armed forces.
"I note with regret but understanding that the tightness of your program precludes your seeing me personally as requested," he wrote in a stinging note to the premier.
"I am confident however that you will at least spare two minutes to read this note from the professional head of the navy before you and your Cabinet colleagues consider a proposition substantially to dismantle that navy."
Leach concluded: "We are on the brink of a historic decision.
"War seldom takes the expected form and a strong maritime capability provides flexibility for the unforeseen. If you erode it to the extent envisaged I believe you will foreclose your future options and prejudice our national security."
The files also include a letter from Carrington to Nott, urging him against axing the Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance, warning it would send the wrong signal to Buenos Aires at a time of tension over the Falklands.
"Unless and until the dispute is settled, it will be important to maintain our normal presence in the area at the current level," he wrote. "Any reduction would be interpreted by both the islanders and the Argentines as a reduction in our commitment to the Islands and in our willingness to defend them."
His appeal was, however, rejected and HMS Endurance was less than a month from being withdrawn from service when the first Argentinians landed on Britain's South Georgia overseas territory in March 1982.
Diplomatic friction between Argentina and Britain has intensified since 2010, when London authorized oil prospecting around the islands, which have a population of around 3,000.
Britain would "never" negotiate the sovereignty of the Falklands against its citizens' wishes, Prime Minister David Cameron said in a Christmas message to the Falklands.
Thatcher, now 86, retired from politics and suffering from dementia, is back in the limelight thanks to the biopic film "The Iron Lady," which hits cinemas around the world next month.

1st female battalion of Indian Army goes pregnant in held Kashmir

The first battalion of Indian army that actually comprises sex workers, recruited from relight areas across India with the help of RAW and posted as Border Guards in the occupied Kashmir by Indian army in September 2009, with aims to provide “fun” to soldiers in the area who were constantly committing suicide, is now reported to be suffering from some serious medical problems due to unsafe sexual activities while at least 63 out of the total 178 female “soldiers”, posted under Northern Command in September last, are reported t have been tested positive in the pregnancy tests, carried out at military hospitals while many male soldiers have also been diagnosed with serious sex related diseases, reveal the investigations of The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the problem started occurring when in the month of December a large number of female “soldiers” started reporting SIQ (Sick-In-Quarter) at different formations with complaints of minute illness like vomiting and headaches. However, as the number of complaints in this direction started rising dramatically, the patients were referred to Military Hospital at Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar. At Srinagar’s Military Hospital, after different tests, it was found that the female soldiers sent there from different formations were mostly suffering from no disease but were found to pregnant while a few others were treated for different unsafe-sex related minor diseases. Captain Dr. Jyoti (name changes on source’s request) of the IAMC (Indian Army Medical Corps), posted at the Military Hospital told The Daily Mail that at least 63 female soldiers, sent to the base hospital from different field units were tested positive in the pregnancy tests. “It was something unusual that these women were found 8 to 10 weeks with pregnancy while they were not sent on leave since their posting some 12 to 14 weeks back. Similarly some other 38 were found having some minor diseases but these were sex related diseases that occur normally due to unsafe sexual activities and thus we reported the matter to the commandant of the hospital who forwarded the same to the high command”, asserted Dr. Jyoti.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the situation rang alarm bells in the Eastern Command’s headquarters where an emergency meeting was held which, apart from others, was attended by Major General Harinder Singh, Commandant of the IAMC of Northern Command. Since the matter was of very serious nature, it was decided in the meeting that was held under the command of the Commander of the 14th corps to bring the matter to the notice of the Army Headquarters at New Delhi. The News arrived at Army Headquarters at New Delhi as a bomb because the headquarter was already suffering from a high profile controversy of land scams and the rift between Army Chief and Commander Eastern Command over the issue was at the peak and Defence Minister was in no mood to give any support to Army Chief Deepak Kapoor.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that since the project of posting sex workers in the disguise of female soldiers in Kashmir was initiated by the orders of General Deepak Kapoor without seeking any formal approval from the Defence Minister, the news cam as a big shock as General Kapoor was already at odds with the Defence Minister A.K Antony over the issue of corruption in sale of army lands. Our sources reveal that upon this, Army Chief held a classified meeting with his confidants and aides and also invited Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services Lt. General N.K Parmar. In the meeting, it was decided to dash a team of gynecologists from Delhi to Northern Command to tackle the situation on emergency, yet confidential basis. Upon this, a team of 9 gynecologists from IAMC was sent to Northern Command. The team performed the abortions upon some 56 “soldiers while rest of the 7 were shifted to Udhampur-based military hospital as their ‘cases’ were reported to be bit complicated and required some serious surgeries. The said team of Army Gynecologists, headed by Lt. Colonel. Bharti Sharma, not only treated the patients but also gave them tips to follow the safe sex practices. In the meanwhile, several male soldiers from the same region were also reported SIQ with sex related diseases.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that as the situation started worsening, the Army Chief General Kapoor contacted Lt. General. Raj Kumar Karwal, who was the head of the committee which recommended the posting of undercover sex workers in Kashmir to meet the natural requirements of the sex starving male soldiers. Sources reveal that General Karwal told General Kapoor that while following his committee’s recommendations, the recommendations, regarding the provision of safe sex devices like the condoms and educating the soldiers about safe sex practices were not followed at all as the committee had recommended that prior to the posting of sex workers amongst the ranks of soldiers, the soldiers must be provided with precautionary measures and should be given tips regarding the safe sex practices.
Sources revealed that upon this, General Kapoor, who had hopes of a support from Defence Minister Antony in this matter, decided to approach the Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram. Upon contacting, Chidambaram promised general Kapoor of his all out support.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that hiding behind the notion of helping the Paramilitary forces, Chidambaram ordered the Home Affairs Ministry to procure condom making machines to be given to military and paramilitary authorities for installing at remote areas of deployment, particularly along the borders. According to a report, released by Indian’s State news agency Press Trust of India (PTI), Indian Government is procuring more than 1,000 units of condom vending machines to promote safe sex practices among its military and para-military deployed in far flung areas.

The machines, the PTI reports further, for the men of forces like CRPF, CISF, SSB, ITBP, BSF and NSG will be installed at the battalion and sector headquarters of the forces, especially along the borders.

"A total of 1,080 machines are being procured by the Home Ministry. The idea is to promote safe sex practices amongst the soldier who are deployed at far off places for long durations," PTI reports, quoting a senior para-military officer. 

The PTI further reports that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has been appointed as nodal agency by the Home Ministry for procurement of these machines as well as all health related purchase and activities.

“The condoms, to be provided through these machines, have been procured from different companies and would be provided to the soldiers free of cost but on rationing basis every month,” concludes the PTI report.
The Daily Mail’s finding further indicate that the soldier of Indian army, posted in Indian Occupied Kashmir and other border areas of India often indulge into unsafe sexual activities including rapes and prostitution. While the complaints of rapes and gang rapes by Indian soldiers are fairly common in Kashmir valley, the border natives other regions are also constant victims of brutal forced rapes of women by the frustrating Indian soldiers. The female villagers along the either side of Indo-Myanmar border, Indo-Bangladesh border and Indo- Nepal border are often sexually assaulted by Indian soldiers while visiting the prostitution dens and opting for paid, yet unsafe sex is a common practice throughout the Indian Army and at many garrisons, Indian Army High Command has taken stringent measures to curb prostitution and have even displayed sign suggesting a ban on prostitution in the area. However the number of such incident had reached alarming limits and the Indian soldiers got into a severe trauma of sexual and mental frustration due to continuous bans on different recreational facilities by the top authorities and thus they started indulging into suicide practices and killing the colleagues as well. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that adding to the miseries of soldiers in Kashmir, the Indian Army announced imposing a ban on use of mobile phones by soldiers, posted in the Occupied valley. These findings indicate that senior medical officers of the Indian armed forces believe that just engaging the sex workers under the grab of female soldiers was not enough to rid the soldiers of frustration and mental stress but the use of mobile phone by troops was also a permanent source of stress and strain for the soldiers, deployed in the occupied valley.
“The problem is not the stress in the encounter, the problem is the cell phone and that should be banned,’’ said Lt-General Dipankar Ganguly, speaking on the occasion of the 246th anniversary of the Army Medical Corps 
The top General said that cell phones allowed the soldiers to maintain regular contact with their families and get updated on their problems, which led to higher levels of stress among them. 
Armed Forces Medical Services Director General Lt-Gen N K Parmar, in his observation, said that the armed forces had taken a number of steps to tackle stress-related issues among the troops.

Russia Hands Over Nuke Sub Nerpa to India: Report

MOSCOW - Russia has handed over the nuclear-powered attack submarine Nerpa to India following more than two years of delays, a senior naval official was quoted as saying Dec. 30.
A 2004 FILE photo shows the Akula-class Vepr Russian nuclear submarine, the same type as the Nerpa sub Russia handed over to India on Dec. 30 following more than two years of delays. (Fred Tanneau / AFP)
"The signing ceremony happened yesterday at the Bolshoi Kamen ship building facility in the (Far East) Primorye region where the Nerpa is now based," the official in the naval chief of staff told ITAR-TASS.
Russian reports said an Indian crew would sail the Akula II class craft to its home base at the end of January after receiving it on a 10-year lease that has angered India's arch-rival Pakistan and resulted in retaliation threats.
The craft is due to reach its Bay of Bengal base of Visakhapatnam under the Indian flag in February and be commissioned by the navy in March.
"All of the naval tests and performance checks have been completed," the Russian official said. "The crew will begin making themselves feel at home on board the craft after New Year and start sailing it to India in the latter half of January."
An unnamed Russian official at the Amur district facility where the Nerpa was built added that the "Indian side is fully satisfied by the volume and quality of the tests" completed on the Nerpa at sea.
The Nerpa will be the first nuclear-powered submarine to be operated by India in nearly two decades after it decommissioned its last such Soviet-built vessel in 1991.
India is completing the development of its own Arihant-classnuclear-powered ballistic submarines and the Nerpa's delivery is expected to help crews train for the domestic boat's introduction into service next year.
The Russian Pacific port ceremony was held on the same day that a shipyard fire engulfed the Northern Fleet's Yekaterinburg nuclear-powered strategic submarine in the Murmansk region on the opposite side of the country.
The Nerpa had initially been due to be handed over to India in 2009 but experienced various problems during testing. It suffered a mishap during trials in the Sea of Japan in November 2008 that killed 20 sailors when a fire extinguisher released a deadly chemical that was accidentally loaded into the system.
Media reports said that some of the ship's equipment malfunctioned during testing and that the weapons navigation system did not work to India's specifications.
The 8,140-ton vessel can fire a range of torpedoes as well as Granat cruise missiles that can be nuclear-tipped. India has promised not to arm the submarine with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles under its obligations to international treaties it adopted after conducting a series of atomic tests in the 1990s.
But the craft's delivery has still upset Pakistan.
"Rest assured, there will be no compromise in terms of maintaining the credibility of our deterrence," Pakistan foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit was quoted as saying by The Asian Age newspaper this week.
The submarine is due to be commissioned as the INS Chakra in India under a2004 agreement that has seen the South Asian giant pay $650 million in construction costs.
Newspaper reports in India said New Delhi may end up paying as much as $900 million under the terms of the deal. Russia's RIA Novosti news agencies valued the contract at $920 million.
Russia supplies 70 percent of India's military hardware but New Delhi has been unhappy about delays to arms orders from Moscow and has looked to other suppliers including Israel and the United States in recent years.

Central African Army Official Held in Graft Case

BANGUI, Central African Republic - The head of supplies for the Central African Republic's armed forces was detained over allegations of embezzling close to 150,000 euros ($200,000), a judicial source said Dec. 30.
Maurice Goleyen "is accused of having misappropriated 100 million CFA francs, which is still a provisional estimate" and turned himself in at a military base in Bangui, a source close to the chief prosecutor said on condition of anonymity.
President Francois Bozize in September announced a major drive to battle graft in the impoverished country, which Transparency International has ranked 154th out of 182 in its latest corruption perception index

6 Dead in Sudan Chopper Crash, Fire: Army

KHARTOUM - All six crewmen aboard a Sudanese military helicopter were killed when it crash-landed and burned in North Kordofan state on Dec. 30, the army said.
Fire broke out because of a "technical problem" aboard the Russian-made aircraft three minutes after takeoff from a base at El Obeid, the state capital, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP.
The pilot crash-landed in a yard "but the fire destroyed the plane completely and all six crew were killed," he said.
Saad said the chopper was carrying "military equipment" on a logistical mission.
The official SUNA news agency reported that the aircraft was a helicopter gunship.
El Obeid is a base for the Sudanese military but there is no known rebel activity in that immediate area. Sudan's armed forces since June have been battling rebels further south in adjacent South Kordofan state, as well as in Blue Nile state.
On Dec. 29, South Sudan's military spokesman said Sudanese air raids killed 17 people in the border state of Western Bahr al-Ghazal, the second day of stepped-up bombing along the northern frontier.
The spokesman also said bombing had resumed over the previous two days around Jau, a disputed area along the South Kordofan-Unity state border.
Khartoum dismissed the allegations of bombing in Western Bahr al-Ghazal as "incorrect," and accused South Sudan of building up its troops in the Jau area to attack inside Sudan.
South Sudan separated from Sudan in July after an overwhelming vote for independence that followed more than two decades of civil war. Each side has accused the other of supporting rebels inside its borders.

Finland to Widen Missile Shipment Inquiry: Customs

HELSINKI - Finland wants to widen an inquiry into the illegal transit of 69 Patriot missiles through its territory aboard a regular merchant vessel, Finnish customs said Dec. 30.
Two Ukrainians - the ship's captain and the first mate - remained in Finland and were subject to a travel ban during the ongoing investigation.
"Next week ... we will want to hear more suspects or persons of interest in the case. It is possible there may be others of interest," the head of the Finnish customs anti-crime unit, Petri Lounatmaa, told AFP.
The surface-to-air missiles, produced by U.S. firm Raytheon, were discovered last week on the British-registered Thor Liberty docked in the southeastern Finnish port of Kotka and bound for the Chinese port city of Shanghai, according to Finnish police. Finnish customs are investigating the case as one of illegal export of defense material.
Lounatmaa said customs and police investigators had "been in contact with several countries" and the information gathered would help them "focus ... investigations in the right direction."
He declined to provide any details on the nature of the information received, noting only that some of it had come in the form of intelligence briefs.
More official information would be needed as evidence if the case goes to criminal proceedings, he said.
Last week, a German defense ministry spokesman said the missiles came from the German military and were destined for South Korea, not China. He said it was a "legal sale on the basis of an accord between two states at the government level" and that export authorizations were in order.
However, a senior Finnish defense ministry official said Finland had not received any transit license application for the missiles from Germany.
On Dec. 26, Finnish transport safety officials cleared the Thor Liberty to leave Finland, after the missiles and most of the cargo of 150 tons of explosives had been unloaded from the vessel.
However, the vessel remained grounded by the travel ban on its first officers.