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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakhstan Arsenal a Mystery to All

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan, hit by an arms export scandal last year, said Wednesday it did not know exactly what weapons it owned.

"Unfortunately, up to now we do not have a full inventory and do not know how many arms we own, not to mention what condition they are in," Defense Minister Sat Tokpakbayev told reporters.

His comments were likely to add to Western concerns that Kazakhstan's arms, consisting largely of ageing Soviet-era hardware frequently sold to Third World countries, could end up in the hands of illegal traders.

Last year, the West slammed Kazakhstan after an undisclosed number of MiG-21 jet fighters were sold to communist North Korea. The Kazakh government said the sale was organized illegally by a private firm.

The scandal threatened to undermine relations with key investors South Korea and the United States.

Kazakhstan has vowed to crack down on illegal exports, although Tokpakbayev has said previously violations are rife.

He said that arms sales would continue in order to raise funds for the cash-strapped military sector.

"By the end of the year we must complete the inventory at the same time as calculating our arms requirements for peace time and war," he said.

"Sales must go on in order to fund the budget, and a certain proportion of the money will come to us for buying new equipment and to help resolve social problems [in the army]," he added.

Kazakhstan has a state arms exporter called Kazspetsexport and last week vowed to form a special commission without whose permission no weapons could be delivered abroad.