ABUJA, February 8, 2011 (AFP) – 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.
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