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Australia confirms arms found on ship bound from N Korea to Iran.

Byline: AFP

MELBOURNE: Weapons including rocket-propelled grenades were found on an Australian-owned ship seized by the United Arab Emirates while traveling from North Korea to Iran, Australia s transport minister confirmed Sunday.

Anthony Albanese said Australia was investigating the vessel ANL Australia, which was reportedly stopped earlier this month carrying a shipment of North Korean arms.Eoe1/4A[yen] I can confirm that that is the case," Albanese told Channel Nine television when asked whether weapons including grenade launchers were found on the ship.

The vessel s seizure marks the first time a nation has acted on UN sanctions to stop the communist state s arms proliferation, a UN diplomat told AFP Friday. Albanese said Australia took its responsibilities under the UN sanctions seriously and the foreign affairs department was investigating the circumstances surrounding the seizure.

"We are investigating as to whether there have been any breaches of Australian law," he said. "If there have been, that will be referred to the appropriate police authorities."

The incident emerged despite a recent easing of tensions with the hardline communist nation, which has been seeking a resumption of talks with the United States three months after stunning the world with a nuclear test.

But the seizure is seen as an indication that North Korea remains set on exporting its military technology, long a top money-maker for one of the world s poorest and most isolated nations. The arms had been falsely labeled "machine parts," the Financial Times reported.

ANL is a Melbourne-based subsidiary of the world s third-largest container company CMA CGM, which has its global headquarters in the French port of Marseille. Calls to ANL s Melbourne office went unanswered Sunday. CMA, CGM s website says the ANL Australia is a Melbourne-registered, Bahama-flagged container ship built in 1991.

A new round of UN sanctions was approved unanimously on June 12, under resolution 1874, in response to North Korea s earlier nuclear weapons test along with missile launches.

The resolution included financial sanctions designed to choke off revenue to the regime, and also called for beefed-up inspections of air, sea and land shipments going to and from North Korea, and an expanded arms embargo.

North Korea responded furiously to the sanctions, vowing to expand its nuclear programme and bolting from a six-nation disarmament agreement. Pyongyang in the past acknowledged selling military technology overseas, declaring it to be a sovereign right.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Aug 30, 2009
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