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Czechs deny arms sale to Iraq

According to a 29 April report in "The Guardian," Iraq recently received a shipment of antiaircraft missiles from the Czech Republic via Syria in a military buildup in expectation of an attack by U.S. armed forces. The Czech Industry and Trade Ministry rejected this charge and told CTK news agency on 29 April that none of the weapons named in the article were sold to Syria this year and that direct weapons sales to Iraq are impossible because of United Nations sanctions. "The Industry and Trade Ministry did not license export of these weapons in 2001 or this year and especially not to Syria and Yemen," Anna Starkova, a spokeswoman for the ministry, told CTK.

"The Guardian" spoke with three Iraqi defectors who left Iraq in the last six months. The men claimed that the first of three deliveries arrived in the Syrian port of Latakia on 23 February. According to "The Guardian" report, one of the defectors said he knows that two more deliveries are on their way, if they have not yet arrived. "The first consignment included anti-aircraft missiles, rockets and guidance systems for Iraq's long-range variants of the old Soviet Scud missile, all illegal under the UN embargo. The shipment, which cost Baghdad $800,000, originated from the Czech Republic under export licenses for Syria and Yemen. Its unloading at Latakia was overseen by an Iraqi intelligence officer, L[ieutenant] Col[onel] Khaled al-Adhani, who also oversaw its diversion from its official destination by road to Iraq. One of the recent defectors, Colonel Khaled Ayad al-Dilemi, from the 12,000-strong elite Special Republican Guard, said that one of his fellow officers had also been dispatched to Latakia to provide protection for the shipment," the report said.

(RFE/RL 09.v.02)

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