Iran today released a Soviet freighter after forcing it to an Iranian port and searching the vessel for goods that might aid Iraq’s war effort, shipping executives said.
In Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov said today the Kremlin lodged a protest with Iran for detaining the freighter, the Pyotr Yemtsov.
Gerasimov and the shipping executives, who requested anonymity, provided different accounts of what happened to the freighter.
The shipping executives said the ship, en route from the Black Sea port of Nikolayev to Kuwait, was near Dubai when it was intercepted Tuesday. (Story, Page 6.) The freighter was taken at gunpoint to Bandar Abbas, an Iranian port 120 miles east of the United Arab Emirates, where it was unloaded, the executives said.
Cargo Checked, Reloaded
The Iranians examined the cargo and found that it did not include material of military value to Iraq, the executives said. The ship was then reloaded.
The Iranians attributed their action to an unspecified “technical failure” in the Soviet ship, the executives said.
Gerasimov told a news conference that when an Iranian warship intercepted the Pyotr Yemtsov on Tuesday, it ordered the freighter to make a maneuver that apparently caused engine problems and left it disabled. He has said the freighter apparently carried cement.
Gerasimov said the Iranians boarded the freighter, adding that “we lodged a protest because this is a violation of freedom of navigation.”
Action in Open Sea
Gerasimov told the Associated Press in a telephone interview that the freighter was never taken to an Iranian port and that the entire incident took place in the open sea.
The Pyotr Yemtsov was under tow today by a second Soviet ship, the Rubezhnoye, and was expected to be repaired soon, Gerasimov said.
Iranian warships also briefly stopped a second Soviet freighter, the Tutov, on Wednesday but allowed it to continue its trip to an undisclosed Persian Gulf, the shipping executives said.
In Moscow, Gerasimov said he did not know about any incident involving the Tutov.