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Official: Spain perplexed by Scud decision

From Al Goodman

Spanish special forces are lowered onto deck of the So San.
Spanish special forces are lowered onto deck of the So San.

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U.S. officials say they are '99 percent sure' that ship was carrying Scuds to Yemen.
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- The Spanish Defense Ministry is perplexed by the U.S. decision to release the vessel carrying a shipment of Scud missiles to Yemen, a senior government aide told CNN.

The freighter So San was stopped and boarded Monday by the crew of the Spanish frigate Navarra about 600 miles southeast of Yemen. Spain was given U.S. intelligence last Thursday and asked to be on the lookout for the ship. (Full story)

Spanish and U.S. inspectors found 15 completed Scud missiles along with 23 containers of nitric acid, Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo said. (Full story)

The United States Wednesday said it would allow the shipment to proceed to Yemen, which has cooperated in the U.S.-led war on terror. U.S. officials said there was no provision under international law prohibiting Yemen from accepting the delivery of the missiles.

But that decision appears to have created a stir in Spain.

The senior aide to the Spanish Defense Ministry said its military went to exhaustive lengths to stop the vessel and that it was working "within the international coalition with information from U.S. intelligence sources."

The official said that the Spanish crew that boarded the ship found a 25-page declaration of cargo aboard that did not list Yemen as a destination and did not list Scud missiles as among its cargo, this official said.

In fact, the cargo declaration mentions only 2,000 tons of cement, which was to be delivered to Djibouti -- an order that had apparently been placed by Djibouti's Ministry Of Mining, the official said.

Asked why Yemen's name doesn't show up on the cargo declaration, he said, "We can't explain it."

Washington's decision to send the boat on to Yemen is a strange one, he said.

He said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio to extend his appreciation of the maritime intercept. But, he said, in the Spanish government's view Powell couldn't offer any explanation for the decision to release the vessel.

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