Sudan dismisses Israeli concerns on arms supplies

Tue Oct 30, 2012 12:40pm EDT

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KHARTOUM, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Sudan dismissed as "misleading" Israeli allegations it supplies arms to foes of the Jewish state and said there was no foreign involvement in a munitions factory Khartoum says was bombed by Israel.

The poor Muslim East African country has long been seen by Israel as a conduit for weapons smuggled to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, via the Egyptian Sinai desert.

Four people were killed after fire broke out a week ago at the Yarmouk arms factory in the south of Khartoum, and the following day Sudan said an Israeli air strike was responsible.

Israel has not commented on the fire.

But Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence official, made clear that Sudan should be considered fair game - an enemy like Hamas and Iran - and that Cairo's interests were also at stake.

"It is clear that it (Sudan) supports the smuggling of munitions, or it helps Gaza. In actuality, these munitions pass through Egypt, so it is endangering its major neighbour, Egypt," Gilad told Army Radio.

A Sudanese foreign ministry statement issued late on Monday said: "We confirm what everyone knows - Iran is not in need of weapons made in Sudan, whether for itself or for its allies."

It said Israel was "trying hard to leak misleading information through various sources known to be connected to Israel in an effort to provide justifications and pretexts for its abominable action".

"This includes talk about an alleged relation between the Yarmouk compound production and Iran, Syria, Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon," the statement said.

Two Iranian warships that docked in Port Sudan on Monday were on a routine visit, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti said, denying the ships' arrival had anything to do with the Yarmouk factory.

"The movement of the Iranian ships is a routine movement. Their entry to Port Sudan is well known and no secret," he told reporters in Khartoum.

On Monday, Iran's official news agency said the helicopter carrier Khark and destroyer Shahid Naqdi had docked in Sudan bearing a "message of peace and friendship," triggering speculation the visit was related to the fire.

The vessels will be open to the public for a full day during their stay from Oct. 28 to 31, state media reported, quoting armed forces spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid, adding that Pakistani, Egyptian, Indian and other vessels had made similar visits. (Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by William Maclean)

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