The Egyptian government denied that a shipment of weapons from North Korea was destined for its military, as reported in The Washington Post. In a report published on Sunday, the U.S. newspaper reported that the Egyptian military was the undisclosed buyer of $23 million worth of rocket-propelled grenades from North Korea in 2016. The Post cited U.S. officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings who remained anonymous.
In a statement sent to AFP, spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid "categorically denied what the [Washington Post] report mentioned regarding Egypt being the destination for the shipment. "The sanctions committee report did not indicate that the shipment was destined for Egypt," he added, referring to a U.N. report mentioned in the Post story.
The United States had warned Egypt in August 2016 that a North Korean vessel named Jie Shun, under the Cambodian flag, was headed toward the Suez Canal. The ship, the Post reported, was run by a North Korean crew and had "an unknown cargo shrouded by heavy tarps". When it reached the Suez Canal, customs agents boarded the ship and found more than 24,000 North Korean rocket-propelled grenades, the newspaper reported. The report said a U.N. investigation found that Egypt was the original buyer of the shipment, which Egypt denies. "The shipment that was confiscated was not destined for Egypt," said Abu Zeid.
The Post reported that the officials said the incident "was one of a series of clandestine deals" that led U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to freeze or delay about $300 million in military aid to Egypt this year.
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