Turkey denies reports of arms shipment to Syria

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkey denied on Thursday local media reports that its security forces had seized a truck laden with weapons bound for Syria.

"The truck was loaded with aid for the Turkmen community in Syria," Interior Minister Efkan Ala told reporters.

Hurriyet newspaper had reported tht security forces stopped a truck loaded with arms and ammunition on the Syrian border on Wednesday and arrested three people including a Syrian.

The drivers claimed they were carrying aid on behalf of the pro-Islamic Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), it added.

But IHH denied the allegations as "slanderous".

"Our organisation has nothing to do with this case," a spokesman told AFP.

Turkey is a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has openly supported the rebels fighting his regime, but has always denied arming them.

In December, local media reported that Turkey had shipped 47 tonnes of weapons to the rebels since June.

But Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz then denied weapons of war had been sent to Syria, saying only hunting rifles had been exported.

Turkey, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to fighters crossing its border into Syria, is sheltering about 600,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the civil war as well as the main Syrian opposition group.