he Brazilian government yesterday prepared to unload the cargo of four Libyan transport planes carrying arms, explosives and military spare parts to Nicaragua that remained grounded at Brazilian airports after being stopped by authorities Monday.
Presidential spokesman Carlos Atila said the planes, which landed at the northern cities of Manaus and Recife on Monday, would be unloaded in the presence of government officials, journalists and Libyan diplomats.
He said an urgent request had been sent to Libya to send a diplomatic representative, and the unloading was not expected before Friday. The decision was taken following a meeting of the president and the National Security Council.
Atila said any military cargo found on board would be detained in Brazil, but both the planes and crews would be free to return along with any inoffensive cargo. A decision would be taken later on the return of the military cargo.
Brazil has lodged a strong diplomatic protest with Libya, and Nicaragua's representative was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi blamed the incident on the "dishonesty of a Libyan civil aviation official who did not put the Brazilian authorities in the picture," Agence France-Presse reported. It quoted a statement published by the Libyan news agency JANA saying that country would continue to support Nicaragua.
It was not immediately clear to what degree relations with Libya, a significant purchaser of Brazilian-made arms and an oil supplier, would be affected.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said the arms shipment "is yet another indication of Libyan support for the Sandinistas' arms buildup and their destabilization activities against their neighbors in Central America."
[A spokeswoman for the Nicaraguan Embassy said, "This was a military gift of the Libyan government to the Nicaraguan government because we asked for help--medicine, food and other equipment--from any country to confront the U.S. military interference that we are now suffering."]