CASTRIES, St. Lucia -- Prime Minister John Compton said Friday he ordered the privately owned St. Lucia Airways to remove the country's name from its registration because of reports linking the airline to U.S. arms shipments to Iran and Angolan rebels.
In a statement after a cabinet meeting, Compton said the aim of the order is to make it clear that the government of St. Lucia is not involved in the arms shipments, which have been reportedly carried out by the CIA.
'In the light of the inability of the government to control the operations of the company in other parts of the world, the government has requested the company to take the necessary steps to remove the name of St. Lucia,' the government said.
The government investigation was launched after The Independent newspaper of London reported that company aircraft carried U.S. officials and arms to Iran last year. The New York Times reported two Boeing 707 jets and a C-130 cargo plane transported arms to Zaire for use by Angolan rebels.
Airline officials have said they are unaware arms and munitions were transported aboard their planes and have offered to cooperate in the investigation.
The privately owned airline also was used to carry soldiers in the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in October 1983. It also has ferried cricket teams and other government-sponsored groups.
The statement said the government will continue investigating whether the airline violated any laws by making false declarations of cargo.
'In light of press allegations, government has directed the customs officials in St. Lucia to check thoroughly the contents of any cargo these aircraft that transit through to St. Lucia to ensure the island is not as a point of transit for arms or ammunition,' the statement said.
Opposition leader George Odlum of the left-leaning Progressive Labour Party urged the government Thursday to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations of arms trafficking.
'Making an inquiry through your ambassador to the U.S. government, seeking information of the United States knowledge of St. Lucia Airways activities, is too restricted and limited,' Odlum said.
Odlum's remarks coincided with statements by a Foreign Ministry spokesman who said U.S. officials were not cooperating with St. Lucia's investigation into the arms shipments reports.
The official said D. Edsel Edmunds, St. Lucia's ambassador to Washington, was referred to a lower ranking State Department official when he sought to meet with Elliot Abrams, the undersecretary of state for interamerican affairs.