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Ship Carrying Missiles Heads for Yemen After Temporary Seizure - 2002-12-11

A ship carrying 15 North Korean Scud missiles is once again on its way to Yemen after U.S. officials determined there was no basis under international law for holding the shipment.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly spoke by phone Wednesday with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and indicated the crew had returned to the ship and that its weapons shipment was heading for Yemen.

White House officials said there was no basis for holding the vessel because there was no provision under international law for doing so.

Yemen's news agency quoted the country's president as saying U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney had telephoned Mr. Saleh and said the shipment would be turned over because the cargo was legal. Two Spanish naval vessels, participating in a U.S.-led anti-terrorist coalition, stopped and boarded the ship in the Arabian Sea Monday and discovered a shipment of 15 Scud missiles and chemicals, including nitric acid, under thousands of bags of cement.

Spanish authorities handed control of the boat and its contents over to U.S. authorities.

Yemen lodged an official complaint with Spain and the United States saying the shipment was legal and was intended for use by the Yemeni army for defensive purposes.