Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority said early Sunday that inspectors did not find arms in a Tanzanian-flagged ship carrying an Iranian cargo destined for Syria.
The authority had intercepted the ship as it crossed the canal following reports that the Tanzanian flag carried had left an Iranian port on Saturday transporting weapons for the Syrian regime.
Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mohab Mamish was quoted by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency as saying that the ship was carrying 7,479 tons of Urea chemical and was allowed passage to the Mediterranean Sea.
Syrian opposition military sources had said the ship was carrying 8,500 tons of weapons and ground missiles from Iran to be given to the Syrian regime.
“It is scheduled to make a ‘fuel stop’ at a Syrian port where it will unload its cargo,” one opposition source told Al Arabiya on Saturday.
There have been various media reports that the Islamic republic has been militarily helping the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which -- according to the U.N. -- has killed more than 70,000 people in the two years since the uprising began.
A Western official told Reuters earlier this month that Iranian weapons continue to pour into Syria from Iraq as well as other routes, including Turkey and Lebanon, which violates the U.N. arms embargo on Iran. Iraqi and Turkish officials denied the allegations.
The source also told Reuters that Iran’s acceleration of support for Assad suggests the Syrian war is entering a new phase in which Iran may be trying to end the battlefield stalemate by redoubling its commitment to Assad and offering Syria’s increasingly isolated government a crucial lifeline.
It also highlights the growing sectarian nature of the conflict, diplomats say, with Iranian arms flowing to the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. That group is increasingly active on the ground in Syria in support of Assad’s forces.