December 30, 2007 / 1:52 PM / 10 years ago

EU disavows suspect chemicals seized by Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The European Union on Sunday denied any connection to bags that Israel said were marked as containing EU aid "sugar" but actually filled with bomb-making chemicals bound for the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said on Saturday it seized 6.5 tonnes of potassium nitrate aboard a Palestinian truck travelling through the occupied West Bank en route to Gaza.

Video footage of the haul showed white sacks with the spray-painted label: "EEC 2 Sugar Exported from E.U."

Potassium nitrate can be used to make explosives and power homemade rockets. It can also be used as a fertilizer.

The European Union is the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.

EU spokeswoman Alix deMauny said the bloc distributes its food aid through U.N. agencies, rather than directly, and does not export any sugar to Gaza.

"Based on the information received, it appears that these bags cannot be confused with any kind of EU humanitarian aid," deMauny said. "We would consider it an isolated criminal act and we condemn it."

Israel tightened its military and economic cordon of the Gaza Strip after Islamist Hamas seized the territory in a June showdown with secular Fatah.

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