Minsk denies Ivorian weapons claims

MINSK, Belarus, March 1 (UPI) -- The government in Belarus, refuting claims from the United Nations, said it wasn't violating an international arms embargo against the Ivory Coast.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Belarus of supplying forces loyal to incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo with attack helicopters in violation of a weapons embargo.

The accusation came as U.N. peacekeepers in the Ivory Coast came under attack amid warnings a political stalemate is on the brink of civil war.

Gbagbo refuses to hand power to Alassane Ouattara despite a U.N. Security Council resolution recognizing him as the winner of a November presidential contest. The election was meant to unite a country divided by civil war in 2002.

The United Nations said the first shipment of military equipment from the former Soviet state arrived during the weekend and additional deliveries were scheduled for this week.

Vladimir Lavrenyuk, a spokesman for military industrial affairs in Belarus, was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying the allegations were baseless.

"Belarus has always respected the sanctions and resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council, including those against Ivory Coast," he said.

He maintained that Minsk has strict control measures in place to monitor exports, noting the U.N. accusations took the government "completely by surprise."


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