Paris – A Saudi merchant ship that has been at the centre of controversy about arms shipments in recent weeks has left Italy without loading any military equipment, activists said on Tuesday.
Rights groups suspect that the Bahri Yanbu picked up weapons shipments in Belgium and possibly Spain earlier this month.
European arms sales to Saudi Arabia are controversial because of the kingdom’s involvement in the devastating war in Yemen.
UN experts say a Saudi-led coalition and its enemies, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, may have committed war crimes by repeatedly attacking civilians.
“The Bahri Yanbu left the Italian port of Genoa overnight without generators that had been licensed for possible military use, thanks to opposition from port workers,’’ Francesco Vignarca of the Italian Network on Disarmament (RID) told dpa.
Marine tracking sites showed that the ship was heading for the Egyptian port of Alexandria.
Italy’s CGIL trade union hailed the development as a “major victory.”
“Ports must be opened to people and closed to the arms trade,’’ CGIL federal secretary Giuseppe Massafra wrote on the union’s website.
The Bahri Yanbu had also cancelled a scheduled stop in the French port of Le Havre earlier this month after protests.
Activists had warned it was likely to load artillery of a type used by Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni border.
Vignarca said fears that the French artillery would instead be loaded at an Italian port had apparently not been correct.
His group had not become aware of any movement of French weapons into Italy. (dpa/NAN)