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Conflicting Reports Abound In Saga Of Chinese Ship With Arms For Zimbabwe

The Chinese government and the International Transport Workers Federation have rejected claims by a Zimbabwean government spokesman saying Harare took delivery of weapons whose unloading in the South African port of Durban was blocked last month, following which the Chinese freighter carrying them disappeared.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry posted a notice on its Web site saying the ship carrying the arms was headed back to China, denying reports the arms had reached Harare.

The Reuters news agency quoted a Chinese official as saying that reports the arms had been transshipped to Zimbabwe through the Democratic Republic of Congo after being unloaded in the port of Punta Negra were “baseless and fictitious."

Zimbabwean Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told state media early this month that the arms were shipped to Harare despite an international furor over the attempted shipment of the weapons during the country's post-election crisis.

A Mozambican newspaper reported that the ship unloaded at Ponta Negra in the Congo. Pretoria and Kinshasa have dismissed such reports as false.

Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramai told VOA he had no comment on the affair.

Spokesman Sam Dawson of the International Transport Workers Federation told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his union has been monitoring the movements of the ship and its cargo has not been unloaded.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...