Russia orders new tests on oil on seized tanker
MOSCOW, Feb 9, 2000 -- (AFP) The Russian government has asked a Swiss company to test oil aboard a Russian tanker seized last week on suspicion of breaking UN sanctions on Iraq, Russia's deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.
The new tests will take between two and three days to be completed, Ivan Ivanov said in a report published the Interfax news agency.
He did not give the name of the Swiss company tasked with the analysis.
The tanker, the Volgoneft-147, was intercepted on Wednesday last week by the US Navy as it left Iranian territorial waters.
The US Fifth Fleet said the tanker had been bound for the United Arab Emirates and passed through Iranian waters after loading with oil in Iraq.
US Defense Secretary William Cohen has said that US tests showed it was carrying oil of Iraqi origin in violation of UN sanctions in force since 1990. The US State Department said the oil would be sold and the proceeds would be put in a special UN account.
Ivanov said that if the new tests confirmed that the oil had come from Iraq, it would be sold, but added that if the contrary were to be proved, US authorities would be embarrassed.
Another deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, had earlier tried to distance the Russian government from a "private commercial" issue, saying: "If the tanker has broken the law ... then the owner will be held responsible."
The tanker is currently in the Omani capital of Muscat, where the oil is due to be unloaded Wednesday, according to a Russian diplomat there.