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Tank Equipment, Heading for Iraq, Seized in Lebanon - 2003-01-14

Lebanese customs officials at Beirut Airport have seized a shipment of tank equipment from Belarus that they say was bound for Iraq. Police are questioning two Lebanese nationals involved with the shipment.

Customs officials said the shipment included communications gear and helmets for tank crews. They say the 12 metric tons of equipment arrived Sunday on a flight from the Belarus capital, Minsk, and was to continue by land through Syria to Iraq.

In Minsk, a spokesman for Belarus denied the shipment included anything sensitive, saying tank helmets are not "secret devices." The official said Belarus does not ship dual-use equipment to Iraq.

An Iraqi diplomat told the Associated Press his country had no involvement in the shipment.

Lebanese officials were questioning two Lebanese men listed as the importers of the equipment. Lebanese law does not permit the import of war materiel, but makes no mention of its export.

Last year, the United States accused Belarus of selling Iraq a sophisticated radar system.

Iraq has long had good relations with Belarus, and its top defense official visited Minsk last fall.