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UN finds North Korea ship violated sanctions, Panama says

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July 30, 2013: This photo shows a naval police officer standing in front of a container carrying a Russian-made fighter engine which was taken off the North Korean-flagged freighter ship Chong Chon Gang, during a press tour at the Manzanillo International container terminal in the port city of Colon, Panama.AP

A preliminary report by a team of United Nations experts has determined that a North Korean cargo ship seized in Panama for carrying weapons violated U.N. sanctions, the Panamanian government said Wednesday.

A Security Ministry statement said the Cuban weapons found under sacks of sugar, including included equipment for launching missiles, "without a doubt" violated sanctions meant to halt sophisticated arms sales to North Korea.

The ministry didn't give any other details. No one at the ministry answered phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

A U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea visited Panama in mid-August to investigate the arms seizure. Its report has yet to be made public.

After the seizure, Cuba said the cargo included "obsolete defensive weapons," including two MiG-21 jet aircraft and 15 motors, nine missiles in parts, and two anti-aircraft systems that were being shipped to North Korea "to be repaired and returned."

North Korea said it had a "legitimate contract" to overhaul "aging weapons" to be sent back to Cuba.

U.N. sanctions state that member states shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of all arms and materiel to North Korea, and related spare parts, except for small arms and light weapons.

The panel of experts could recommend the Security Council add individuals or entities involved in the transfer to a U.N. sanctions list. Member states could then decide to follow up by imposing travel and financial restrictions on those added to the list.

Years of sanctions have restricted if not stopped North Korea's sale of arms in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It's also hurting its ability to procure conventional military equipment, including for its prized air force.