China Calls Arms Deal 'Normal'

BEIJING — China said Tuesday that a shipment of weapons bound for Zimbabwe may return home after the vessel was unable to unload in South Africa, but it defended the cargo as "perfectly normal trade."

Zambia, which chairs the Southern African Development Community grouping, has urged regional states to bar the ship from entering their waters, saying the weapons could deepen Zimbabwe's election crisis.

The ship was barred from unloading in the South African port of Durban, prompting it to set sail again. Mozambique and Angola have since denied it access to their ports.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the contract for the shipment was signed last year and was "unrelated to recent developments" in Zimbabwe.

Jiang said the arms shipment was "perfectly normal trade in military goods between China and Zimbabwe," but because it was impossible for Zimbabwe to receive the goods, the company involved is now considering shipping the cargo back to China.

n South African ruling party leader Jacob Zuma said Tuesday that Africa must send a mission to Zimbabwe to end a delay in issuing election results, which he called unacceptable.

"It's not acceptable," he said. It's not helping the Zimbabwean people who have gone out to … elect the kind of party and presidential candidate they want."