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UN says North Korea giving nuclear equipment to Burma

Posted by arnon_k On November - 13 - 2010 ADD COMMENTS

UNITED NATIONS: North Korea is supplying banned nuclear and ballistic equipment to Burma, Iran and Syria using “surreptitious” means to avoid international sanctions, according to a UN report released on Saturday morning.

China had blocked publication of the report which has been ready for six months, diplomats said.

North Korea is involved with “the surreptitious transfer of nuclear-related and ballistic missile-related equipment, know-how and technology” to countries including Iran, Syria and Burma, said the report.

A UN sanctions committee panel of experts called for heightened vigilance to stop the nuclear trade and for more detailed investigation into the sophisticated means used by North Korea to circumvent sanctions.

North Korea, known officially as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “employs a broad range of techniques to mask its transactions, including the use of overseas entities, shell companies, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers and barter arrangements,” said the investigators.

Since the last sanctions were imposed in June 2009, four “non-compliance cases involving arms exports” had come to light, the report said.

It did not give details but said North Korea used “masking techniques” including mislabelling containers, falsifying ships’ manifests and destination details “and use of multiple layers of intermediaries, shell companies, and financial institutions.”

The North is increasingly using foreign-owned ships and modern air freight jets which can now easily get from North Korea’s main airports to the Middle East without refuelling and so avoid checks.

The experts said the Security Council should consider ordering North Korea to declare all air cargos before countries give overflight clearance.

The experts “expressed concern that certain countries, such as the Syrian Arab Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Burma, continue to be associated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in regard to proscribed activities and believes that special attention should be taken by all member states to inhibit such activities.

North Korea staged one nuclear test in 2006 and claims it set off another nuclear device in 2009, when the last sanctions were imposed. The UN Security Council has banned trade in nuclear and ballistic material.

The UN has named eight entities and five individuals for asset freezes and travel bans. The report said the number involved was much higher and called on countries to name other banks and other entities that should be added to the list.

North Korea had been involved in nuclear talks with China, the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea. But the last talks were in late 2008 and the isolated North pulled out of the negotiations the following year.

International Atomic Energy Agency director Yukiya Amano said this week that the standoff with North Korea was now “very bad”.

The UN report said there were no signs that North Korea “is ready to move forward on denuclearisation or to step back from its other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile development programmes.”

The North “has continued to engage in activities proscribed by the relevant Security Council resolutions and has continued to boycott the six-party talks. It continues to market and export its nuclear and ballistic technology to certain other states.

China has been the North’s main ally on the international stage and it had blocked the report since it was prepared in May, diplomats said.

DR Congo troops accused in new rape atrocities

Posted by arnon_k On October - 15 - 2010 1 COMMENT

DR Congo government troops are raping and killing women in remote villages where hundreds were the victims of mass rapes by militias just a few weeks ago, a top UN envoy said Thursday.

Margot Wallstrom, UN special envoy on sexual violence against women in conflict, said it was “unimaginable” that the same communities in the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo were again the target of sexual assaults.

She said the UN mission, MONUSCO, had reported new attacks in the Walikale region where in late July and August militias and Rwandan rebels rounded up women and raped them in front of their villages and families.

Wallstrom has in the past called DR Congo the “rape capital” of the world.

“I am gravely concerned about the ongoing military operations by FARDC (DR Congo army) in the Walikale territory and the implications for the protection of civilians,” she told the UN Security Council on Thursday.

“Thousands of FARDC troops have now been deployed to the territory in an operation to implement the president’s moratorium on mining in the area and to reassert government control.

“There is already some information from MONUSCO peacekeepers on the ground that rapes, killings and lootings have been perpetrated by FARDC soldiers.

“The possibility that the same communities that were brutalized in July and August by FDLR and Mai-Mai elements are now also suffering exactions at the hands of FARDC troops is unimaginable and unacceptable.”

Wallstrom called on the DR Congo government to quickly investigate the new attacks and “hold any perpetrators to account.”

She had blamed the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Mai-Mai militia for the mass rapes in July and August.

A Mai-Mai leader, Lieutenant Colonel Mayele, was arrested in an operation by Indian peacekeepers with the MONUSCO mission on October 5.

Wallstrom praised the Indian soldiers and called the arrest of Mayele an “important precedent”.

“When commanders can no longer rest easy in the certainty of impunity, when it begins to cross their mind that they may be turned in by their own, for commissioning or condoning rape, this is the moment when we open a new front in the battle to end impunity,” she said.

She said the Security Council should “escalate” the focus of the DR Congo sanctions committee on sexual crimes.

Wallstrom identified a militia leader, Lieutenant Colonel Seraphim, of the FDLR, and said he should be added to the list of those facing international sanctions, alleging that he was also to blamed for the mass rapes in July and August.

Wallstrom said the arrests sent a strong signal to the thousands of victims of rape in DR Congo each year, calling it: “A moment of solace, that the world is not blind to their plight.”

But also highlighted what she called the “nexus” between the pattern of rapes and attacks and the presence of the huge mineral and natural resource wealth in eastern DR Congo.

“The mineral wealth that should be the source of their great prosperity is instead the source of their greatest suffering,” she declared.

Wallstrom said that UN peacekeepers in DR Congo are “overstretched and under-resourced” with a “widening gap” between the expectations made of the force and the means it is given.

“They are demoralized by the sheer scale of the problems and constant barrage of criticism from all quarters.”

MONUSCO has about 20,000 staff and troops from more than 50 countries. Costing more than 1.3 billion dollars a year, it is one of the world’s biggest UN security operations.