LONDON (AP) _ British ministers did not have a policy of breaching the arms embargo on Sierra Leone, and violations resulted from repeated staff blunders, according to an official inquiry made public Monday.

The inquiry centered on arms shipments by a British company, Sandline International, to the forces of Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who had been ousted in a May 1997 coup.

Sandline said it had government permission to assist Kabbah, despite a U.N. arms embargo imposed on the West African nation. The embargo applied to Kabbah's forces even though the United Nations recognized his side as the legitimate government of Sierra Leone.

Kabbah was restored to power in March by a Nigerian-led African force.

The inquiry's report, which was debated in Parliament on Monday, attributed failures to ``management and cultural factors, but partly by human error, largely due to overload.''

It noted that officials didn't know that the U.N. embargo applied to Kabbah. ``This ignorance arose from repeated, and partly systematic failures of communication,'' the report said.

``The picture painted by this report is of a Foreign Office in shambles,'' said opposition Conservative lawmaker Michael Howard in a parliamentary debate.

``We already knew that ministers contradicted each other and themselves, that officials contradicted one another and themselves and that telegrams were lost and faxes destroyed, but the detailed evidence in this report is almost beyond belief,'' he said.

The report faulted Foreign Office officials for not appreciating the sensitivity of the matter and not bringing it promptly to the attention of ministers.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook blamed the problems partly on budget-cutting by previous Conservative governments. He said staffing on the African desks at the Foreign Office had been cut from 430 a decade ago to 328 today.

Cook said he would create a sanctions enforcement desk to insure that arms embargoes are observed, and contacts with private military firms would be banned unless authorized.