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CRISIS IN YUGOSLAVIA

Coast Guard Bars Cargo Ship Captain

April 10, 1999|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Citing national security concerns raised by the U.S.-led NATO offensive against Yugoslavia, the Coast Guard on Friday warned a Panamanian-registered cargo ship that it will not be allowed to enter the harbor here until it replaces its Yugoslav captain.

The Coast Guard, invoking its power as Captain of the Port, said the 623-foot-long Iris Ace will be kept away until someone of a different nationality takes control of the ship.

Monday, President Clinton issued an executive order that banned from U.S. ports all Yugoslav-registered ships or ships under the control of Yugoslav captains. San Diego, the West Coast home port for the U.S. Navy, is the sixth U.S. port to issue an order directed at a specific ship.

"The principal objective has been and remains the protection of U.S. vessels, ports, harbors, waterfront facilities and people from sabotage or other unlawful activities," Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Chris Palmer said.

The company that owns the freighter has promised to replace the captain during a port call in Ensenada, Mexico, before the vessel arrives in San Diego late today or early Sunday.

To make sure the switch happens, an armed boarding party of five to seven Coast Guard personnel will board the Iris Ace when it enters U.S. territorial waters 12 miles from shore.

"We said either comply or don't come to San Diego," Palmer said. "So far they've been very cooperative."

The Iris Ace, loaded with Japanese-made automobiles, is scheduled to unload at the National City dock south of San Diego.

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