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THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Dutch businessman convicted in April of selling weapons to ex-Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor was arrested in South Africa on a Dutch warrant, officials said on Friday.

"Blood timber" trader Guus Kouwenhoven was sentenced as an accessory to war crimes for providing arms to Taylor's government in violation of a U.N. embargo.

Kouwenhoven, 75, has been living in Cape Town and had refused to return to the Netherlands for trial, citing health problems. He was not present at the trial.

Dutch prosecution spokesman Bart Vis said Kouwenhoven would appear before a judge in South Africa on Friday and a court there would rule later on the Dutch extradition request.

Known in Liberia as "Mister Gus", Kouwenhoven ran two timber companies in the West African state in 2000-03 and used them as cover to smuggle arms, according to the Dutch court that sentenced him to 19 years in prison.

At the time, Liberia was in the grip of a civil war between then-President Taylor’s government and several rebel factions.

Liberia's string of conflicts since the 1990s left an estimated 250,000 people dead. Thousands more were mutilated and raped and all sides in the conflict used child soldiers.

Taylor stepped down in 2003. He was arrested in 2006 and in 2012 sentenced to 50 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg,; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Ed Osmond)

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Reuters