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LIMASSOL, Cyprus — More than 300 people, apparent refugees fleeing from Syria, refused to leave a cruise ship that rescued them from a small boat stranded off Cyprus, a cruise line official said Thursday. Salamis Cruise Lines Managing Director Kikis Vasiliou said the people are insisting they be taken to Italy instead. "They want us to send them to Italy," Vasiliou told reporters at the east Mediterranean island's main Limassol port. "The authorities, they have to decide what they want to do." Vasiliou blamed Cypriot authorities for keeping him in the dark about how they intend to resolve the situation.
Cypriot officials said that the 345 people, including 52 children, were to be taken to a reception center near the capital Nicosia where they would be given shelter and medical attention until authorities determine what will happen to them. Dozens of civil defense officials, medical staff and police were waiting at dockside to receive the people after the cruise ship had docked. A small group did disembark from the ship to negotiate with authorities, Vasiliou said, but talks broke off with the group returning to the ship. But several adults holding small children were seen leaving the cruise ship, while one man led away by police in handcuffs. The Cypriot Defense Ministry said the boat had "most likely" set sail from Syria loaded with "civilian refugees."