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Arms seized in Nigeria were for Gambia: Iran ambassador

by Staff Writers
Abuja (AFP) Feb 8, 2011
Tehran's ambassador to Nigeria said Tuesday that arms seized in October at a port in Lagos were destined for the Gambia and followed an agreement between Iran and the small West African nation.

The controversial arms shipment sent from Iran has drawn international attention because it could constitute a violation of sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear programme.

An alleged Iranian Revolutionary Guard member, also identified in court documents as a businessman, has been charged in Nigeria over the shipment.

Iran said previously that the arms were bound for a West African country and were sent by a private company. Gambia severed ties with Iran after earlier allegations that it was the intended recipient, which it has denied.

Iran's ambassador in Abuja, Hussein Abdullahi, told journalists that he met with Nigerian government officials after the seizure.

"I informed them formally that this consignment was not for Nigeria. The destination is Gambia," he said

"It is based on the agreement signed between Iran and Gambia three years back and this is not the first part of that consignment. This is the third part, and I asked them to please not to allow people who are not happy with our friendly relations to gain advantage of this incident."

Asked why the cache, which included rockets and grenades, was disguised as building material, he said he did not know since a private company handled the shipment.

As for why Gambia severed ties with Iran, Abdullahi said the country was upset that Tehran had disclosed a confidential agreement to Nigeria.

Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme, including a ban on arms sales. Nigeria has reported the seizure to the UN Security Council.

earlier related report
Mali destroys hundreds of weapons
Kidal, Mali (AFP) Feb 8, 2011 - Hundreds of weapons collected from people and former Tuareg rebels were burned in northern Mali on Tuesday in a bid to do away with small arms which still abound after an insurgency in the 1990's.

Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who lit the fire, said the destruction allowed "a new step towards peace" in the west African country.

"We will make every effort to ensure that the operation against the proliferation of small arms continues," he said, overseeing a ceremony called "The flame of peace."

In recent years members of a national commission against small arms proliferation have scoured the region of Kidal, a hotspot of the Tuareg rebellion, to collect rifles, pistols and submachine guns.

"We take these weapons after an awareness campaign. In return we finance micro-projects to help people develop," said committee member Lieutenant Colonel Abdoulaye Ag Hamadou.

Mali was hit by a Tuareg rebellion in the 1990's and early 2000's before a peace deal was signed in July 2006.

On Tuesday Toure ended a two day visit to Kidal where he launched a development program focused on areas of safety, hydraulics and agriculture.

The president has often stated the need to develop the region where several Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) units are active, to prevent the organisation from forging ties with the communities.

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China's finance minister visits Zimbabwe to bolster bonds
Harare, Zimbabwe (AFP) Feb 6, 2011
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visits Zimbabwe on Thursday to buttress ties between the Asian powerhouse which has solidly backed the southern African nation battered by western isolation. Yang's two-day visit is "to further consolidate bonds and friendships between our two peoples," the Chinese embassy in Harare said. He is expected to meet President Robert Mugabe and senior gover ... read more

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