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Sudan dismisses Cyprus weapons probe

By Reuters

June 23, 2010 (Khartoum) -- Sudan on Wednesday denied trying to import arms on a ship intercepted in Cyprus, saying explosives on board had been ordered by a mining company.

Cypriot authorities on Tuesday said they had prevented a cargo vessel from leaving their waters since June 11, saying it contained prohibited military material and was thought to be heading for Sudan.

A security source said authorities were investigating whether the cargo contravened a U.N. arms embargo on all armed groups operating in Sudan's Darfur region, where a seven-year conflict has pitted government troops and allied militias against rebel fighters.

Sudan's recently appointed mining minister, Abdel Baqi al-Jailani, told Reuters late on Wednesday the reports of an arms shipment were "just nonsense".

"The ship is carrying some explosives for civil work ... for quarry face blasting and mining," he said. "It has nothing to do with the military."

He said the explosives had been ordered by Ariab Mining Company, an operation part-owned by the Sudanese government with gold mining operations in eastern Sudan.

Jaliani said Sudan was now considering taking legal action to free the cargo and win compensation for the delay.

"The explosives were supposed to be here ... Some work has had to be stopped ... Sudan always comes under suspicion. This is something we always have to deal with," he said.

Cypriot police said the vessel was sailing to Sudan and then Singapore.

The U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, in March accused Sudan of cavalier violations of the United Nations' Darfur embargo.

In September 2008, Somali pirates captured a Ukrainian ship loaded with a cargo of Soviet-era T-72 tanks and other weapons. Foreign diplomats said there was evidence the arms were bound for south Sudan. South Sudan's semi-autonomous government dismissed the report. (Reporting by Andrew Heavens). 

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