Barak to U.S., France: Take Steps to Stop Lebanese Flotilla

After announced delay in departure of women's flotilla, Defense Minister speaks with foreign ministers of U.S. and France, stresses that flotilla is an "unnecessary provocation."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke on Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, U.S. National Security Adviser General Jim Jones, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and asked them to act to prevent the launch of the Lebanese flotilla setting for Gaza.

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The Defense Minister emphasized that Israel permits the import of civilian materials into Gaza after it is checked at the port of Ashdod. Therefore, he said, "The flotilla's attempt to reach Gaza is a needless provocation."

Earlier in the day, the organizers of the women's flotilla from Lebanon to Gaza announced that the ships would not set sail on Sunday. Apparently, the reason for the delay is Cyprus's refusal to allow the ships to pass through its territorial waters or to drop anchor in one of its ports.

"We will not set sail tomorrow," Samar Al Haj, one of the flotilla organizers, said to the Reuters news agency. "We have encountered difficulties. We will try to set sail from another port, we won't give up so easily."

On Thursday, the Israeli delegation to the United Nations submitted a complaint to the general secretary of the organization and to the head of its security council. The complaint stated that the flotilla is a needless provocation, and that there are acceptable ways of transferring aid to Gaza.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that all of the other states in the region, including those that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, understand that any such flotilla will only cause damage to the whole region. "We hope that this understanding will lead to cooperation to prevent the provocations," Lieberman said.

Earlier Friday, Defense Minister Barak said that the women's flotilla intends to aid terror groups. "The flotilla planning to set sail from Lebanon has nothing to do with humanitarian goals, it is a hostile irritation," he said in a Defense Ministry statement.