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No nuclear cargo on NKorean ship: India

Indian authorities have found no nuclear cargo aboard a North Korean ship held in the Bay of Bengal, but will proceed with investigations to ensure crew statements contain no discrepancies, officials said on Friday.

india Updated: Aug 14, 2009 14:55 IST

Indian authorities have found no nuclear cargo aboard a North Korean ship held in the Bay of Bengal, but will proceed with investigations to ensure crew statements contain no discrepancies, officials said on Friday.

The MV Mu San dropped anchor off Hut Bay island in the Andaman islands last week without permission and was detained by the coastguard after a more than six-hour chase.

Officials said they were trying to determine whether the vessel had been anywhere near Myanmar, suspected to be seeking help from North Korea to build a nuclear reactor.

Crew members have provided no explanation why the ship had anchored near Hut Bay, a populated island.

"We have not found any nuclear material on board the ship," Ashok Chand, a senior police officer, told Reuters from Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

"But we are continuing our investigation to check any discrepancies in statements by crew members."

Indian officials said they were taking no chances in view of North Korean sales of missiles and other weapons materials to tense regions of the world. A Korean interpreter was helping with interrogations of the 39-member crew.

"Once we are fully convinced, then only we will decide what will be the next step," Chand said.

The ship could now be escorted to Andhra Pradesh state, where its consignment of sugar could be checked further, a police officer unauthorised to speak to the media said.

India has also tightened security in the Andamans and were looking for foreign ships which had strayed into Indian waters.

U.N. member states are authorised to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo, and seize and destroy goods transported in violation of a Security Council resolution in June following the North's nuclear tests.

North Korea has walked out of six-party talks aimed at reining in its nuclear weapons programme. It fired short-range missiles in launch tests in May and exploded a nuclear device on May 25, prompting tougher U.N. sanctions that it has ignored.