China Calls Air Zimbabwe Report a Malicious Rumor
RAPAPORT… China refuted The Age newspaper report out of Australia that claims Air Zimbabwe used flights to transport diamonds, ivory, and gold to Beijing in exchange for weapons.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao wrote in a statement, “The report proved to be malicious rumor.”
“As more foreign airlines fly to China in recent years, the relevant departments of the Chinese government have carried out management on all flights passing in and out of China according to the law.”
China forbids the use of civilian flights for illegal activity the ministry added.
CANBERRA, Australia: A newspaper report Tuesday that claims Zimbabwe is using Australian airspace to trade with China has prompted Australia’s opposition leader to call for a ban on such flights.
The Age newspaper reported that for the past year, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime has regularly commandeered Air Zimbabwe flights and has flown them through Australian air space over the Indian Ocean to China via Singapore.
The report, citing unnamed Zimbabwe aviation sources, said the flights are free junkets for Mugabe supporters. They fly to Beijing and southern China to trade contraband such as ivory for weapons and luxury goods, the newspaper said.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s office could not be immediately contacted for comment Tuesday.
But opposition leader Brendan Nelson said the government must investigate the report and ban Zimbabwe flights from Australian airspace if it were true.
“We are all deeply concerned about the appalling treatment of Zimbabweans from torture through to murder; the complete corruption of the political system in Zimbabwe,” Nelson told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
“Every single thing that we can possibly do to bring good governance and order and political freedom to the people of Zimbabwe should be done,” he added.
A spokesman for the Zimbabwe embassy in Canberra was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Australia is a vocal critic of Mugabe’s brutal suppression of political dissent in Zimbabwe and has imposed economic and travel sanctions against the Mugabe regime since 2002.
China and Russia this month vetoed in the United Nations U.S.-proposed sanctions against Zimbabwe’s leaders.
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