1 May 2008

Zimbabwe: Arms Ship Waits Off Luanda, Say Unionists

Cape Town — The Chinese ship carrying weapons for Zimbabwe is anchored off Luanda and shows no sign of returning to China, says the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).

In a statement issued on Thursday, the ITF general secretary, David Cockroft, said the federation trusted that the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, was waiting only to refuel and "that no attempt will be made to land any of its cargo of arms."

The ITF said although there were 20 ships waiting to dock in Luanda ahead of the An Yue Jiang, "there is no guarantee that it will not be allowed in ahead of them, allowing it to arrive before or during tomorrow's national holiday in Angola."

The An Yue Jiang sailed for Angola 10 days ago after it was prevented from offloading its cargo, first in Durban, South Africa, and then in other ports on the east coast of Africa.

In a news conference in Beijing on April 24, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said that "according to my knowledge, [the] relevant Chinese company has decided to ship back the cargo that [it] was due to deliver to Zimbabwe." The An Yue Jiang is operated by the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO).

Cockcroft said that neither COSCO nor the Chinese government had given "any definitive promise" not to offload weapons in Angola. He added: "We can promise that the world will be watching what happens next."

The ITF said its Angolan affiliated, the Federacao dos Sindicatos dos Trabalhadores dos Transportes e Comunicacoes de Angola (FSTTCA), had declared on Thursday its members would refuse to unload any arms bound for Zimbabwe from the ship.

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