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Turkey exports hunting guns to Syria

ANKARA, Turkey, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Turkey's defense minister acknowledged the country has exported guns meant for "sports" to Syria, in contrast with the nation's no-weapons export policy.

A report in the Turkish newspaper the Hurryiet Daily News last weekend asserted the Turkish government has been routinely supplying rebel forces fighting for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad with weapons in contrast with public statements denying any role in supporting opposition fighters.

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Hurryiet, citing customs documents filed in Turkey and at the United Nations, said the Turkish government has sent 47 tons of rifles, shotguns and other traditional sporting weapons to Syria.

Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz quoted those same customs documents, calling the weapons "ungrooved hunting rifle and blank firing gun kind of commodities."

"Other than that, any export by us is out of question," he said.

The Turkish Defense Ministry must sign off on any weapons exports and Yilmaz said the guns sent do not qualify as such under international law.

"Ungrooved hunting rifle suitable for use for sports purposes and blank firing guns are not war weapons as suggested by the said report. This commodity's exportation to Syria is not held subject to any limitation in line with the current international rules and regulations. They passed 'the redline' during customs inspections," Yilmaz said.

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In August, rebel forces claimed to have received 400 tons of weapons sent from Turkey -- a claim the Turkish government vehemently denied.

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