* Military training vessel held over debt dispute
* U.N. court cleared its release on Saturday
* Creditors claim they are owed $300 million
(Updates with comment from Argentine president, details)
ACCRA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - An Argentine naval vessel detained
in Ghana at the request of a hedge fund seeking payment on
defaulted government bonds left the West African country on
Wednesday, a port official said.
The ARA Libertad, a tall sailing ship used for training, was
detained on a court order obtained by NML Capital Ltd, which
claims it is owed $300 million resulting Argentina's debt
default in 2002.
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled on
Saturday that Ghana should release the ship after Argentina
argued that a U.N. Convention on the law gives warships immunity
from civil claims when they dock at foreign ports.
The Argentine ship was detained in the port of Tema, Ghana
on Oct. 2.
"The boat has just set sail after supplies (arrived)," Jacob
Kwabla Adokor, the director of the Tema port, told Reuters.
"Everything went smoothly. The ropes came off 20 minutes ago."
A Reuters witness watched from a distance as the ship glided
away from its berth in the late afternoon, its masts and colours
visible above the roofs of surrounding buildings.
A plane arrived in Ghana from Buenos Aires, Argentina's
capital, earlier in the day carrying 98 sailors to replace the
326 crew members who evacuated the detained ship in October,
leaving behind only a skeleton crew for essential maintenance.
The Libertad is due to arrive in the Argentine seaside
resort of Mar del Plata on Jan. 9, at the height of the southern
hemisphere summer vacation season.
"There will be a lot of tourists and they'll be able to
visit the ship, which has become a symbol of sovereignty and
national dignity," Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez said
in a speech late on Tuesday.
"Holdout" creditors including NML have won several billion
dollars in damages in U.S. courts over Argentina's $100 billion
debt default. But they have struggled to collect since most
Argentine assets abroad are protected by sovereign immunity
These creditors recently won a U.S. court ruling ordering
Argentina to pay $1.3 billion to NML and other sovereign
bondholders who shunned debt restructuring deals in 2005 and
2010. The court decision was halted pending appeal.
The Libertad was visiting Ghana as part of a west African
tour and was due to sail on to Angola when it was detained.
Argentina's Defence Ministry initially filed a motion
contesting the detention claiming sovereign immunity for the
military vessel, but a court in Ghana's capital of Accra upheld
the seizure as legal.
Argentina's government has consistently rejected claims for
debt repayment by NML and other hedge funds, calling them
(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo and; Hilary Burke. Writing by Joe
Bavier.; Editing by Ruth Pitchford and Christopher Wilson)