Sunday, August 30, 2009

Aussie ship held for gun running

The Sunday Telegraph

AN AUSTRALIAN-owned cargo ship has been caught shipping a cache of banned arms from North Korea to Iran.

The Financial Times reported yesterday the ANL Australia was seized in the United Arab Emirates under new UN Security Council sanctions meant to derail North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Chris Schultz, general manager of business development at ANL Australia, said he was unaware an ANL vessel was involved in any seizure.

"This is the first I have heard of it," Mr Schultz said.

He admitted the ship was the property of ANL but refused any further comment.

ANL is the Australian-based subsidiary of the CMA CGM Group, the third largest container shipping line in the world. Built in 1991, it was previously named Australian Endeavour and is owned and operated by ANL.

The UAE, a hub for Iranian goods, reportedly seized the ship several weeks ago. Diplomats claimed the ship was carrying rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons disguised as machine parts.

A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was unaware of the incident.

The ship's seizure and reported violation of the arms embargo was reported by the UAE in a confidential letter two weeks ago to the council's sanctions committee for North Korea that is comprised of diplomats from all 15 nations on the Security Council.

Turkey's deputy UN ambassador, Fazli Corman, who chairs the sanctions panel, confirmed the incident and said council members are examining the seriousness of it.

"The committee received information from UAE authorities and the committee is processing the information," he said.

The Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea on June 12, strengthening an arms embargo and authorising ship searches on the high seas to try to rein in its nuclear program after Pyongyang's second nuclear test on May 25, violating a council resolution adopted after its first nuclear blast in 2006.

The council also has ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals involved in the country's nuclear and weapons programs and put five North Korean officials, four companies and a state agency on the sanctions list. Three other companies were put on the list after Pyongyang launched a rocket on April 5, a move seen as cover for testing long-range missiles.

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