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Australia probes NKorea arms ship seized in UAE.

Summary: An Australian shipping firm at the center of an investigation into North Korean arms smuggling remained tight-lipped Monday as foreign affairs officials probed allegations it shipped arms to Iran.

An Australian shipping firm at the center of an investigation into North Korean arms smuggling remained tight-lipped Monday as foreign affairs officials probed allegations it shipped arms to Iran.

United Arab Emirates customs officials are believed to have seized containers from the ship ANL Australia as it travelled from North Korea to Iran earlier this month.

The Australian government confirmed over the weekend that weapons including rocket-propelled grenades were found in the containers, in apparent violation of U.N.-imposed sanctions on Pyongyang. A foreign affairs spokeswoman said officials were investigating if there had been a breach of Australian laws relating to the U.N. sanctions, which were strengthened in June after North Korea stunned the world with a nuclear test.

She said Australian laws backing the U.N. sanctions applied to the country's citizens and corporations anywhere in the world.

"In the event these inquiries reveal information which could reasonably be suspected to relate to an offence under Australian law, the department will refer the case to the Australian federal police," she said.

The ship is owned by ANL, 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.

ANL business development manager Chris Schultz said the company was not making any public statements about the allegations.

"We're just choosing not to make any comment," Schultz said from his Melbourne office.

The vessel's seizure marks the first time a nation has acted on U.N. sanctions to stop the communist state's arms proliferation.

The incident 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.

A new round of U.N. sanctions was approved unanimously on June 12, under Resolution 1874, in response to North Korea's earlier nuclear weapons test and missile launches.

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

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Publication:Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)
Date:Aug 30, 2009
Words:387
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