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UK insurer stops cover on ship going to Syria

LONDON (AP) – A British company said Tuesday it has cancelled insurance for a Russian ship it says was carrying munitions to Syria _ a shipment the British government says included refurbished military helicopters.

U.K.-based insurer Standard Club said in a statement that it had been made aware that a Russian ship, MV Alaed, was carrying the munitions destined for Syria, in clear breach of its rules.

“We consequently informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage,” it said in a statement.

Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed it was aware that a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters was heading to Syria. It said Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that all defense shipments to Syria must stop.

“We are working closely with international partners to ensure that we are doing all we can to stop the Syrian regime’s ability to slaughter civilians being reinforced through assistance from other countries,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The BBC reported Tuesday that the ship was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the Outer Hebrides off the northwest coast of Scotland. The Foreign Office and Standard Club refused to give details of its location.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a harsh reprimand of Russia last week, when she said that Moscow “dramatically” escalated the crisis in Syria by sending attack helicopters there. The State Department acknowledged later the helicopters she accused Moscow of sending were actually refurbished ones already owned by the Assad regime, but Russia was clearly annoyed, and the spat further fueled tensions between the two countries over Syria.

It was not immediately clear whether the helicopters aboard the Alaed were the ones to which Clinton had been referring.

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