Iran denies involvement in arms-laden plane incident
MOSCOW, December 22 (RIA Novosti) - Tehran has denied accusations circulating in the Western media that a seized cargo plane loaded with weaponry from North Korea was heading for Iran, the country's official news agency IRNA reported on Tuesday.
An Il-76 cargo plane carrying 35 tons of weaponry was seized during refueling at Bangkok's Don Muang airport on December 12. Officials said the weapons included portable anti-aircraft missile systems and spare parts for ground-to-air missiles.
The Wall Street Journal on Monday quoted a group of arms trafficking experts as saying the flight plan for the plane showed that after Bangkok it was due to make refueling stops in Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine before unloading its cargo in Tehran.
"It is widely known that these media reports are aimed at applying psychological and political pressure on Iran. We categorically deny these reports," IRNA quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.
The Wall Street Journal said its information came from a joint draft report by analysts at TransArms in Chicago and the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) in Antwerp.
The Kazakh and Belarusian crew of the plane who are being held in custody have said they were unaware of the military nature of the cargo. The say they were told the cargo was oil drilling equipment.
The paper said it remains unclear who organized the weapons shipment, but the plane reportedly stopped at an air force base in Azerbaijan en route to Pyongyang.
UN resolution 1718 imposes a ban on imports and exports of "battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems", "related materiel including spare parts" and any other items identified by the sanctions committee.
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