January 13, 2009 / 1:14 AM / 9 years ago

U.S. arms shipment delayed due to Gaza conflict

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. military plan to ship munitions from a Greek port to a U.S. stockpile in Israel has been canceled due to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command issued a tender on December 31 for a ship to deliver 325 standard 20-foot containers of ammunition on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.

Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Greek port had been considered as a possible location from which to transfer ammunition from a larger ship coming from the United States.

But the request to shippers had now been canceled due to safety concerns at the final destination related to the conflict in Gaza, Ryder said. Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip seeks to halt rocket fire by Hamas militants aimed at southern Israel.

"The trans-shipment ... via the Greek port of Astakos will not take place," Ryder said.

"I can confirm that the U.S. munition shipment has been delayed and that EUCOM (U.S. European Command) is developing an appropriate course of action to deliver the items to the U.S. stockpile in Israel," he said.

"I have no information to provide on timelines or possible routes for obvious reasons of operations security."

The Pentagon said on Friday the shipment was intended only for the U.S. stockpile and not to provide ammunition to Israel, a close U.S. ally and major buyer of U.S. military equipment, for the conflict in Gaza.

The U.S. military hired a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December from the United States to Israel. Ryder said that shipment was also for the U.S. stockpile in Israel.

Reporting by Andrew Gray; Additional reporting by Stefano Ambrogi in London; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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