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UPDATE 1-Syria says plane from Russia carried legal cargo

Thursday, 11 Oct 2012 | 6:38 AM ET

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DAMASCUS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Syria said on Thursday a Damascus-bound plane forced to land in Ankara by Turkish fighter jets while en route from Moscow had been carrying legitimate cargo.

"The plane was not carrying any illegal material," Ghaida Abdulatif, head of Syrian Arab Airlines, told reporters in Damascus. "When the plane was inspected it was clear that there were ... civilian packages with electrical equipment which are allowed to be transported and had been officially registered."

The state news agency SANA also quoted Abdulatif as saying Turkish authorities "assaulted the plane's crew before it was allowed to take off", without giving details.

Lebanon's al-Manar Television earlier quoted Syria's transport minister as describing Turkey's forcing the passenger plane to land as an act of air piracy. Turkish officials suspected it was carrying military equipment to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's forces are fighting rebels.

Abdulatif said Turkey's action was "inhumane" and that the airline would lodge a complaint with international aviation authorities over the incident.

(Reporting by Marwan Makdesi; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

((Dominic.J.Evans@Thomsonreuters.com)(Reuters Messaging: Dominic.J.Evans.Thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: SYRIA CRISIS/CARGO