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UN SC experts to start checking arms found on North Korean ship in Panama Canal

August 13, 2013, 3:59 UTC+3
The North Korean ship was stopped for a routine inspection in the Panama Canal on July 10
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Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

UNITED NATIONS, August 13 (Itar-Tass) - Experts of the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council on Tuesday will start an inspection of the arms found by Panamanian authorities in July aboard a North Korean ship that was sailing from Cuba. Initially, the start of the inspection had been planned for August 5, but it was postponed at the request of Panama’s authorities that faced difficulties with discharging 10 tons of sugar from the vessel. The illegal freight was discovered under the sugar.

A source in the UN expert group told Itar-Tass that the cargo examination, according to the preliminary plan, will last until August 16, and the progress report will be issued within two weeks after that. “Our procedures provide for the submission of the report within 14 days after returning from the trip, but I hope that we will be able to prepare it earlier than that,” said the official.

According to him, the report will likely include only the facts found during the examination. “I do not think we will be in a position to make definite conclusions, since we may have questions to other parties - not least to Cuba. We will have to collect all the information before we put an end to the investigation,” the source said.

The North Korean ship was stopped for a routine inspection in the Panama Canal on July 10. A few days after that Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said that the “weapons, including components of missile technology were found in containers under a large sugar batch.”

Soon after that, the country’s authorities reported 12 engines for the MiG-21 fighter jets and two disassembled MiG-21bis fighters, as well as five military vehicles, which, experts believe, “are mobile units to monitor missile launches,” were found, in particular, on the North Korean ship. After that, Panama’s Prosecutor in charge of combating drug trafficking Javier Caraballo said that “ammunition and explosives” were allegedly found on the detained vessel.

Cuban authorities admitted that the North Korean ship carried “long outdated and worthless” military equipment, which was sent to North Korea for repairs and subsequent return to the island. However, the government of Panama sent a special request to the UN to conduct an inspection of the cargo by its experts.

The UN group of six experts is to make a conclusion whether this case is a violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, prohibiting exports of any weapons to North Korea and imports of any weapons from there.

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