Iran denies trucks held in Turkey taking arms to Syria

ANKARA Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:58pm EST

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ANKARA (Reuters) - The Iranian embassy in Ankara denied on Thursday that four trucks being held by Turkish customs were carrying military equipment from Iran to Syria, while a spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry said an investigation was still in progress.

The trucks were confiscated on Tuesday in Turkey's southeast province of Kilis at the Oncupinar border crossing into Syria.

"These trucks have been subject to control regarding the goods they carry, and the investigation continues," Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said.

The Iranian embassy's statement coincided with a visit to Ankara by Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, for talks with Turkey's leaders.

Turkey imposed economic sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad's government in November, having earlier implemented an arms embargo in protest at Assad's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators who took to the streets in March.

Turkey abandoned its past friendship with Assad to side with the protesters, and has set up camps on its southeast border to host thousands of refugees who have fled the violence in their homeland.

Syria has also been suspended from the Arab League, leaving Damascus with few friends outside Tehran.

Iran's support for Assad reflects sectarian ties, as Assad's minority Alawite sect has links with the Shi'ite Islam followed in Iran. Most of Turkey's Muslims, like the majority of Syrians, are Sunni.

(Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; editing by Tim Pearce)

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