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UN suspects Zimbabwe over I. Coast arms embargo

Swaziland imports firearms through Mozambique: report
Maputo (AFP) March 4, 2011 - Swaziland is importing two containers of firearms through a Mozambican port, two years after Britain blocked an arms shipment to the southern African kingdom, Mozambican state media said Friday. The arms arrived in Maputo, the Mozambican capital, on a Panamanian vessel on February 28 from an unspecified country, state daily Noticias reported. "The containers in question at the Maputo Port were in transit to neighbouring Swaziland, in an operation authorised by Mozambican authorities and covered by a special agreement between the governments of Mozambique and the kingdom of Mswati III," said the paper, citing an unnamed police source. Noticias said the arms would be transported to Swaziland under police escort.

Mozambican police chief Jorge Khalau and spokesman Pedro Cossa declined to comment. Swaziland has reportedly had trouble importing arms in the past because of concerns about how Africa's last absolute monarchy would use the weapons. In December 2008, Britain blocked a Swazi move to buy arms worth $60 million (43 million euros) from a British company over "end-use concerns," according to a US embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks. The cable speculated that the Swazi government planned to use the helicopters, armoured vehicles and machine guns to "build up domestic capability to deal with unrest" or sell the arms on to a Middle Eastern country or Zimbabwe, which is under a European Union arms embargo.

The Swazi defence ministry said it planned to use the arms for an African peacekeeping mission. Police in Swaziland have a history of crushing protests against King Mswati III's regime. Last year they arrested nearly 50 activists to prevent pro-democracy demonstrations. A Facebook group is currently calling for the king's overthrow through protests inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Lybia. Known as "The April 12 Uprising!!!" it promises "all hell will break loose" on April 12 when a hundred thousand men will march for "a democratic Swaziland free of all royal dominance." April 12 is the date in 1973 when political parties were banned in the country.
by Staff Writers
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
No US weapons cuts in short-term: Pentagon chief
Colorado Springs, Colorado (AFP) March 4, 2011 - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he expects no major cuts to weapons programs in the next two years but that fiscal pressures could require sacrifices.

"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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