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No Ski Lift For You, Swiss Government Tells Kim Jong Un

A multimillion-dollar deal to provide ski lifts for a resort in North Korea has been cancelled, after Switzerland's government decided the plan violated U.N. sanctions forbidding the export of luxury items to the country.

Those sanctions were strengthened in March, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went ahead with nuclear weapons tests. The prohibitions bar the export of technical equipment that could bolster a weapons program, as wall as "luxury goods such as jewelry with pearls and race cars," as the U.N.'s news agency announced earlier this year.

The proposed deal was worth some $7.55 million, according to Swiss news site The Local, which reports that the Swiss company in question was disappointed that the deal was nixed. More from the site:

"The [State Secretariat for Economic Affairs] said the planned luxury ski resort is being built for 'prestige and for propaganda' purposes of Kim's regime.

"According to a spokesman from the secretariat, it was inconceivable to imagine an ordinary North Korean citizen using the resort's facilities."

Many see the ski resort project as part of North Korea's plan to boost tourism in the country. Kim Jong Un recently visited the site of the planned ski resort, where he praised the army for its construction efforts.

"It is thought [Kim Jong Un] learned to ski in Bern, where he attended secondary school without revealing his true identity," reports the BBC, which adds that French and Austrian ski-lift companies have turned down similar deals.

The North Korean leader was in the news last week, when a state news agency reported that he visited a factory making a smartphone, labeled the Arirang. As the AP reported, the claims were met with skepticism by industry analysts, some of whom said the phones had likely been assembled in China.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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