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Seized ship 'broke UN sanctions'

A preliminary report by a team of United Nations experts has said a North Korean cargo ship seized in Panama for carrying weapons violated UN sanctions, according to the Panamanian government.

A Security Ministry statement said the Cuban weapons found under sacks of sugar, including equipment for launching missiles, "without a doubt" violated sanctions meant to halt sophisticated arms sales to North Korea. The ministry did not give any other details.

A UN panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea visited Panama in mid-August to investigate the arms seizure. Its report has yet to be made public.

After the seizure, Cuba said the cargo included "obsolete defensive weapons" including two MiG-21 jet aircraft and 15 motors, nine missiles in parts, and two anti-aircraft systems that were being shipped to North Korea "to be repaired and returned".

North Korea said it had a "legitimate contract" to overhaul "ageing weapons" to be sent back to Cuba.

UN sanctions state that member states shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of all arms and material to North Korea, and related spare parts, except for small arms and light weapons.

The experts could recommend the Security Council add individuals or entities involved in the transfer to a UN sanctions list. Member states could then decide to follow up by imposing travel and financial restrictions on those added to the list.

Years of sanctions have restricted if not stopped North Korea's sale of arms in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It is also hurting its ability to procure conventional military equipment, including for its prized air force.

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