RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA, DEC. 26 -- A U.S. Navy boarding party fired a warning shot and scuffled briefly with crew and passengers of an Iraqi cargo ship in the Arabian Sea, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The ship, the 11,000-ton Ibn Khaldoon, was en route to Iraq carrying milk, sugar, rice, cooking oil "and other prohibited cargo," Lt. Col. Greg Pepin told reporters here. The boarding party declared the ship in violation of a U.N. trade embargo against Iraq and sent it to an unidentified port to be unloaded.

U.S. and allied warships have intercepted 5,833 vessels under the U.N. resolution, virtually halting Iraqi commerce. The Ibn Khaldoon, en route from Aden, Yemen, to the Iraqi port of Basra, was the first vessel stopped and "diverted" in several weeks, Pepin said.

The ship had 42 crewmen and 240 passengers aboard, most of them women on a "peace mission" to bring food to Iraq. The Associated Press quoted Baghdad radio as saying the women were from 10 Arab countries, the United States, Japan, Italy and China.

Pepin said the U.S. destroyers Fife and Oldendorf and the Australian ship Sydney intercepted the vessel in the Arabian Sea near the island of Masirah off the coast of Oman.

The ship's captain "refused to acknowledge repeated requests to stop," Pepin said, and the Navy sent a small boarding party by helicopter. It landed on the deck at 5:30 a.m., he said, the ship stopped 10 minutes later and an inspection team arrived by boat at 6 a.m. "As the U.S. Navy personnel approached the pilot house," Pepin said, "a member of the crew attempted to hold the boarding party members back and grab their weapons."

Pepin said one of the boarding party fired a pistol in the air, while others set off smoke and noise grenades for "crowd control," effectively ending the "scuffle."

British marines were landed on the Iraqi vessel by helicopter to back up the Americans and Australians, AP reported.

Four passengers said they were hurt in the confrontation, Pepin said, and a doctor was sent to ship. "The medical officer found no evidence to support the claims, and the {captain} agreed the passengers did not need medical attention," Pepin said.