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Palestinians sorry for 'illegal' Cold War guns found at Prague embassy after blast

Katerina Sulova / AP, file

Policemen at the residence of Palestinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Jamal al-Jamal who was killed in an explosion in his diplomatic flat in Prague on Jan.1.

TEL AVIV -- Palestinian officials have apologized to the Czech Republic for an unregistered stash of Cold War guns found at its embassy in Prague following an explosion that killed its ambassador, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.

Czech police found twelve firearms after the Jan. 1 blast at the compound killed Palestinian ambassador Jamal al-Jamal.

"We apologized for not telling them before about the existence of the weapons inside the embassy," Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Taisir Jaradat told NBC News.

Jaradat said the guns were given to the embassy as a gift in 1991, but did not clarify from whom. He said Czech authorities told them at the time they did not need a licence because the guns were a gift, and the weapons have been forgotten in storage ever since.

"It was very clear to them that those weapons were not smuggled," he said.

The weapons were produced in the former Czechoslovakia in the 1980s before the fall of the Soviet Union and included sub-machine guns and sidearms, a Czech foreign ministry source told NBC News.

Jaradat said the weapons were "not illegal." But the Czech foreign ministry maintains that because the guns were not officially registered they violated both the Czech firearms laws and the Vienna Convention, which governs how ambassadors operate within their host countries.

The Czech foreign ministry said in a statement that a high-ranking Palestinian official had delivered the apology during a meeting on Monday. It said he acknowledged "the fact that there were illegal arms in the Palestinian embassy."

The ministry said it accepted the apology and was now waiting for the results of an investigation into the explosion by Prague police.

Al-Jamal was appointed ambassador in October but worked as a diplomat in Prague in the late 1980s, the same period to which Czech investigators date the weapons. He was moving from an old diplomatic building to a new compound when the explosion happened.

Investigators are now trying to determine if the weapons have ever been fired.

Alexander Smith reported from London.

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