ROW OVER SEIZED ARMS, PRESIDENCY SUMMONS IRANIAN AMBASSADOR
The Federal Government, yesterday summoned Iran's ambassador over an arms shipment it seized last month, in Lagos. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki attended the meeting held at the office of the Foreign Affairs Minister, Odei Ajumogobia. An official at the Iranian embassy in Abuja confirmed that, trully, the Iranian Foreign Minister was in Nigeria but declined to comment further.
'The Iranian ambassador has been summoned…and he is holding a meeting with the (Nigerian) Foreign Affairs Minister,' said an official at the Foreign Ministry, who refused to be named.
'Part of the agenda of the meeting is the issue of the shipment of explosives and the visit of the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran,' the official told Reuters. A diplomat with access to intelligence on Iran had told Reuters in New York. Mottaki had gone to Abuja to discuss the seized arms and take permission from the Federal Government to bring two Iranians linked to the shipment back to Tehran.
In a statement released on Monday, Nov 1, the embassy neither accepted nor denied that Iran was involved in the arms shipment. It also declined elaborating on Israel's allegation that the arms were destined for Hamas controlled Gaza.In the statement, the embassy said that 'any unnecessary word would add to the confusion already existing.'
A diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonimity said the two Iranians were at the Iranian embassy in Abuja and that Tehran appeared reluctant to have them questioned by Nigerian authorities.
The Iranian embassy had earlier denied reports by a local newspaper that some Iranians had been arrested over the weapon seizure just as it was reported that two Iranians linked to the arms shipment were hiding there.
Security agents had intercepted 13 containers declared as building materials and discharged from the CMA CGM Everest vessel at the ever busy Apapa port.
At the time, CMA CGM said, 'the shipment in question was booked as a 'shippers owned container' and supplied loaded and sealed by the shipper, an Iranian trader who does not appear on any 'forbidden persons' listing.' CMA CGM based in France operates the Marshall Islands-flagged vessel. The company said the containers were loaded in Bandar Abbas by a local trader, at the southern port city of Iran, and discharged in Lagos in July. After three months, the shipper asked to have the containers reloaded and sent to the Gambia. According to the firm. clearance had been obtained before customs offiials intervened and halted the shipment.
Diplomats in New York said Iran would appear to be in breach of the United Nations sanctions regime, which forbids it from exporting any kind of weapons directly or indirectly, if the seized weapons were originally loaded on its territory.
But they said it was difficult to assess the case because Nigeria had not yet notified the U.N. Security Council's Iran sanctions committee about the seizure. Only on Wednesday, the States Security Service (SSS) faulted the reports that the arms shipment was meant for Nigeria.