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Australia Probes North Korea Weapons For Iran Seizure

Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the government was "investigating the circumstances around this event."
SYDNEY (Reuters) -- Australia will investigate the case of a shipment of North Korean weapons seized from an Australian-owned ship en route to Iran to see if its laws were broken, Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has said.

Weapons including rocket launchers, detonators, munitions, and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenades were seized on August 14 in the United Arab Emirates from the "ANL-Australia," an Australian-owned vessel flying the Bahamas flag.

The weapons were being shipped in violation of UN sanctions, imposed after North Korea's second nuclear test in May, which ban Pyongyang from selling arms to other states.

Asked about the seizure, Albanese told Channel Nine the Australian government was "investigating the circumstances around this event."

"Certainly in terms of the next step forward, we are investigating as to whether there have been any breaches of Australian laws. If there have been, that will be referred to the appropriate police authorities," Albanese said.

The "ANL-Australia" is operated by ANL, the Australian arm of French-based shipping conglomerate CMA CGM. A spokesperson for the company was not immediately available for comment.

Western diplomats have said the cargo was deceptively labeled and the cargo manifest was inaccurate.

Diplomats have said both North Korea and Iran appeared to be in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which banned all arms exports from North Korea and authorized states to search suspicious ships and seize and destroy banned items.

The Security Council sent letters to Tehran and Pyongyang on August 25 informing them of the seizure and demanding a response within 15 days.

The resolution was imposed after North Korea's second nuclear test in May. The council imposed sanctions on Pyongyang after its first test in October 2006 but they were never enforced, mainly because China showed no interest in seeing them implemented.