China's foreign ministry has denied reports that a Chinese arms shipment meant for Zimbabwe has reached the country. Several African countries refused the ship, but China says the vessel turned back because Zimbabwe did not receive the weapons as agreed. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Thursday rejected African media reports that over the weekend said the weapons had finally reached Zimbabwe.
Reports from South Africa and Mozambique said the cargo of guns, bullets, grenades, and mortars had been unloaded in either Angola or Democratic Republic of the Congo before making their way to Zimbabwe.
Qin, however, said those reports were completely false.
He says they have already many times said that the weapons sold to Zimbabwe will return on the ship, called the An Yue Jiang, and that it is currently on its way back to China. Therefore, he says, the reports and comments are groundless and purely fabricated.
The Chinese ship was refused permission to unload in South Africa out of concern the weapons might be used against opposition to the government of President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe has been in political turmoil since President Mugabe's government suffered heavy losses in a March election and then controversially delayed the results and a runoff election, now scheduled for late June.
Human rights groups say violent gangs loyal to Mr. Mugabe have attacked supporters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has himself survived assassination attempts.
As pressure from human rights groups, churches, and the United States grew, Mozambique and Zambia also refused the weapons shipment.
The Chinese government has not recognized the weapons were refused entry and says Zimbabwe simply failed to receive them.