Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

How odd.

Tourists hoping to catch the first rays of the Italian summer could find themselves rubbing shoulders with a group of Iraqi sailors sipping espresso at one of the waterfront cafes on Italy's Riviera.

Italy impounded Iraq's two most modern warships, the bulk of its navy, 12 years ago under an arms embargo imposed by the United Nations following the Gulf War.

An Italian firm had just finished building the ships but the embargo came into force before they could be delivered.

The 70-metre missile-and-gun boats have sat rusting at the back of La Spezia harbour ever since but the Iraqi navy sends 12 sailors a year to man the grounded and ammunition-less vessels.

With the crews sea-faring rituals whittled down to hoisting the red, white and black flags the sailors are left with plenty of time to sample Italy's 'dolce vita'.

"The crew are not prisoners. They can go around the town when they want. It's the ships that can't go anywhere," La Spezia spokesman Francesco Pilato told Reuters. "They started the engines once for about 15 minutes about 12 years ago. Until the embargo is lifted they are not leaving."

"They often come and sit here and have an espresso after they've been shopping," Diana Pinto, owner of the Pink Benny cafe near the portside said, serving ice cream to a group of teenagers. "No-one has ever had a problem. They are peaceful."

< email | 3/25/2003 04:03:00 PM | link

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