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Sudan Tribune

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Ethiopia denies violation of UN ban on North Korea

WASHINGTON, April 14 — The Ethiopian government has denied that it violated United Nations sanctions by carrying out a secret purchase earlier this year of military equipment from North Korea.

In a statement issued Friday, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry acknowledged that it had received a cargo shipment from North Korea on Jan. 22, but asserted that it did not include prohibited items like tank parts.

“This shipment contained spare parts for machinery and engineering equipment and raw material for the making of assorted ammunition for small arms,” the Ethiopian statement read. “The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa might have been aware of Ethiopia’s importation of the said cargo from North Korea. “However, the fact is that Ethiopia did not purchase arms or any other item covered by Resolution 1718 under the contractual agreements,” the statement read, referring to the Security Council measure. Ethiopia said the shipment was carried out under the terms of several contracts that were signed with North Korea in June and was paid for in advance.

The State Department has declined to comment on the details of this episode.

The Central Intelligence Agency reported in late January that an Ethiopian-flagged ship had left a North Korean port and that its cargo probably included tank parts and other military cargo, according to American officials.

The purchase of tank parts would violate restrictions on dealings with North Korea imposed by the United Nations Security Council in a resolution adopted in October. The Security Council acted less than a week after North Korea tested a nuclear device.

The Bush administration decided not to press Ethiopia to reject the shipment, and the vessel was not inspected after it took its cargo to a port in Djibouti for overland transport to Ethiopia. Some American officials said the shipment was most likely a Security Council violation.

Ethiopia purchased $20 million worth of arms from North Korea in 2001, according to American estimates, and American officials say this pattern has continued. Ethiopia has an arsenal of Soviet T-55 tanks and other Soviet-style equipment. The United States has sought to persuade Ethiopia to wean itself from its longstanding reliance on North Korea for inexpensive Soviet-era military equipment.

The United States has had close ties with Ethiopia. American officials say that Ethiopia was provided with American intelligence about the location of Islamist forces before its recent offensive in neighboring Somalia. On Jan. 7, American AC-130 gunships launched two strikes on terrorist targets from an airstrip inside Ethiopia, according to American officials. Ethiopia has said such reports are a fabrication.

(New York times)