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Germany says missile shipment legitimate

HELSINKI - A shipment of 69 surface-to-air missiles impounded by Finnish authorities was a legitimate delivery from Germany to South Korea, a German official said yesterday.

The announcement came after Finnish authorities seized the Patriot missiles and 160 tons of explosives on a British-registered cargo ship and detained two Ukrainian crew members on suspicion of violating weapons export laws.

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Police said the missiles did not have the correct transit documents, and explosive picric acid was not properly stored on the M/S Thor Liberty, which docked in Kotka, in southern Finland, Dec. 15.

A spokesman for Germany’s Defense Ministry said the missiles were an official shipment that was fully declared and had all necessary clearances from German authorities.

“Those Patriot guided missiles are from the Bundeswehr’s stocks and have been shipped to South Korea’’ under an intergovernmental treaty, he said, declining to be named in line with government policy.

He said no explosives were part of the shipment.

The ship sailed from the north German port of Emden Dec. 13, en route to China, and docked in Kotka. Finnish officials there impounded the cargo Wednesday and launched an investigation.

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