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Nigeria Discusses Purchase of Missile Technology from N. Korea - 2004-01-28

Senior Nigerian officials have held discussions with North Korea on obtaining missile technology.

A Nigerian government spokesman says the vice presidents of the two countries discussed the possible sale of North Korean missile technology at a meeting Tuesday in Abuja. That meeting involved Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his North Korean counterpart Yang Hyong Sop.

The Nigerian spokesman, Onukaba Ojo, said no deal has been reached. But he added Nigeria would use any new missiles to boost its peacekeeping capabilities and protect its territory.

Nigeria, West Africa's biggest military power, often leads peacekeeping missions in the troubled region. A written statement issued Tuesday by Vice President Abubakar's office said Nigeria is intent on continuing to cooperate with North Korea in the defense sector, as it has over the years.

Former Nigerian military ruler, Sani Abacha, who died in 1998, is believed to have bought weapons from North Korea during his five-year rule, but the extent of cooperation was never disclosed.

This is the first indication of Nigeria possibly resuming military cooperation with North Korea since the West African country's return to democracy in 1999. Nigeria has since become an important U.S. ally and one of its main suppliers of oil.

The United States has accused the North Korean government of selling missiles and missile technology to what it considers rogue states that have supported terrorism, including Libya and Syria. The Nigerian spokesman, Mr. Ojo, said Nigeria does not fall into that category.

But U.S. officials say profits from such sales help pay for North Korea's nuclear program, which the international community sees as a serious threat.