United Nations (AFP) March 4, 2011
UN experts are investigating suspected sanctions-busting arms deliveries from Zimbabwe to Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, according to a UN report.
UN investigators are looking into "the arrival of light weapons cargoes from Zimbabwe" in December, said the report which has been handed over as clashes mount between followers of Gbabgo and internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara.
The UN Security Council warned again this week of sanctions against any side in Ivory Coast who breaks an arms embargo imposed in 2004 when the country was torn apart by civil war.
The investigation focuses on four aircraft which landed at San Pedro airport in southern Ivory Coast, in territory controlled by Gbagbo's forces, between December 17-21.
The planes arrived from Angola, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
Investigators are also looking into a shipment of 10 large wooden crates "which may contain trucks or tanks." The report said the consignment has been at Abidjan port for six months under "24/7" military surveillance.
The report by a monitoring group with the UN mission in Ivory Coast, UNOCI, detailed about 11 suspicious activities for international experts on the UN sanctions committee for the West African nation.
Neither the Zimbabwe mission at the UN, nor the United Nations would immediately comment on the report. World powers have expressed growing concern however that Ivory Coast is plunging back into civil war.
The UN apologized this week to Belarus for saying that it had delivered attack helicopters to Gbagbo's forces in contravention of the embargo. Diplomats say that while no consignment from Belarus may have arrived they are certain that one was planned.
And the Security Council said in a statement released since the apology that the UN mission must
"In recent weeks, pro-Gabgo forces have been engaged in killings, kidnappings, rape and torture, in an often-organized campaign of terror," said Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch.
"Countries violating the arms embargo to put weapons in their hands are fueling the fire and could be complicit in serious human rights violations. They should remember that Ivory Coast is on the International Criminal Court's radar."
earlier related report
"I don't see any other major programs on the block for the next year or two but we'll just have to see how serious the budget situation is," Gates told cadets at the US Air Force academy in Colorado Springs.
Gates, answering a question about defense budget prospects, said he had proposed in 2009 canceling or curtailing 33 weapons programs and Congress approved 32 of his recommendations.
The House of Representatives recently voted to back Gates' remaining request to cut an alternative engine for the F-35 aircraft, which he had called unnecessary and extravagant.
But Gates warned there would be hard decisions ahead as budget pressures mount.
"I think we've done a good job in imposing some discipline internally," he said. "I think we'll have to make some very difficult choices, probably toward the latter part of this decade."
The US Navy will face a dilemma in future years as it will need to find funds to replace aging warships that date back to the 1980s and to build costly new submarines, Gates added.
The Air Force will likely grapple with a similar problem in trying to secure money for new refueling tankers, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and a planned long-range bomber.
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