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Turkish jets intercept Syrian plane

Turkish military jets have forced a Syrian passenger plane to land at Ankara airport on suspicion that it might be carrying weapons or other military equipment.

The incident came amid heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria which have sparked fears of a wider regional conflict.

The Syrian Air airliner was travelling from Moscow when it was intercepted by F16 jets as it entered Turkish air space and was escorted to the capital's Esenboga Airport, state-run TRT television reported.

Foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Airbus A320, with 37 passengers and crew, would be allowed to leave, but its cargo had been confiscated. Mr Davutoglu reportedly said: "There are elements ... that are not legitimate in civilian flights."

He did not provide details but said authorities continue to examine the cargo.

Mr Davutoglu earlier told TGRT television that the plane was intercepted on suspicion it was carrying illicit cargo to Damascus. "If equipment is being carried under the guise of civilian flights or if they are not being declared, then of course we'll inspect it," he said. "We are determined to stop the flow of weapons to a regime that carries out such ruthless massacres. We cannot accept that our air space be used for such aims."

Hurriyet newspaper's website, citing unidentified intelligence officials, said communications equipment, wireless sets and jammers were found on board. NTV television reported that authorities found "missile parts".

Mr Davutoglu said Turkish authorities also declared Syria's air space to be unsafe and were stopping Turkish aircraft from flying over the civil war-torn country.

The move comes as tensions between Turkey and Syria are running high. The countries, which were once close allies, have been exchanging artillery fire across the volatile border for days.

Earlier, Turkey's military chief General Necdet Ozel vowed to respond with more force to any further shelling from Syria, keeping up the pressure on its southern neighbour a day after Nato said it stood ready to defend Turkey.

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