Subject: AGE: Ramos Horta denies Pyongyang arms deal

Ramos Horta denies Pyongyang arms deal

Dili December 24, 2003

East Timorese Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta has denied allegations his Government will buy weapons from North Korea.

"The story is an absolute lie," he said yesterday. He said he had emphasised this message at a meeting with UN mission head Kamalesh Sharma.

Chong Jae-Hong, North Korean ambassador to Australia, who also represents several Pacific countries, visited East Timor in November to present diplomatic credentials. The new nation has ties with more than 80 countries, including South Korea.

Newspaper reports this week cited "a senior Dili-based diplomat" as expressing concern that North Korea could supply small arms to an elite unit of the new East Timor police force to counter the power of the army, which is seen as loyal to President Xanana Gusmao rather than Fretilin, the group that fought for East Timor's independence.

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