U.S. to reward tips on illicit cargos in the Middle East

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July 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy will for the first time reward individuals for providing information that leads to the seizure of illicit cargos such as illegal weapons or narcotics in waters across the Middle East, it said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), which is headquartered in Bahrain and covers strategic waterways such the Suez Canal and Strait of Hormuz, said the rewards could be in cash or items such as boats.

"NAVCENT could potentially reward a maximum $100,000 payout for information or non-lethal assistance that supports counterterrorism operations or leads U.S. naval forces to successfully seize illicit cargo such as illegal weapons or narcotics," it said in a statement on its website.

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"Rewards can also be non-monetary and include items like boats, vehicles, food or equipment," it said.

The statement gave a phone number in Bahrain where tips can be reported, in addition to the website dedicated to the U.S. Department of Defense's rewards programme.

The statement did not mention a specific country as being a target of the reward programme, but its implementation could complicate the shipments of Iranian weapons to Tehran's allies in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

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Reporting by Moataz Mohamed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by David Clarke

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