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Monday, February 01, 2010

Confirmed: North Korean weapons were headed for Iran

Thai authorities have confirmed that a North Korean weapons plane that was impounded in Bangkok in December was headed for Iran.
A large shipment of North Korean weapons seized here in December was bound for an airport in Iran, according to a Thai government report submitted to the United Nations and leaked to news agencies.

But a Thai government spokesman in Bangkok said the report, which was prepared by the Thai Foreign Ministry, was not conclusive because investigations were continuing.


“We don’t know exactly where the plane was going,” Panitan Wattanayagorn, the Thai government spokesman, said in a telephone interview Sunday. The flight plan submitted by the crew of the aircraft listed several other airports, Mr. Panitan said. “The cargo could have been off-loaded at any of those destinations.”

Diplomats and Thai government officials appear to agree that the weapons were manufactured and shipped from North Korea in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. There also appears to be agreement that the Thai authorities searched the aircraft on a tip-off by American intelligence agencies. The crew members, who are being detained at a Bangkok prison, say they were told that they were carrying oil-drilling equipment.

Numerous versions of airway bills and itineraries are circulating with little certainty as to which are authentic. The Thai lawyer for the crew, Somsak Saithong, said Sunday that the crew gave him an airway bill that says the weapons were ordered by an Iranian company. This appears to contradict other documents that list companies in Ukraine and Hong Kong.

According to Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the Thai government report, the cargo was destined for Mahrabad Airport in Tehran. The shipper was listed as Korea Mechanical Industry Co.

A U.N. Security Council committee is assessing the Thai report and is drafting letters that will be sent to North Korea and other governments requesting further information, according to the diplomats quoted by Bloomberg. The committee will report on the case to the full Security Council on Feb. 11.
The weapons were headed for Iran. Bet on it.


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