|Iran dismisses allegations of arms shipment to Somalia as ‘absurd fabrications’||
TEHRAN – Iran has denied allegations that it has been supplying militants in Somalia with weapons, describing the charges as “absurd fabrications,” according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Thursday.
As the United States pushes for an end to the UN arms embargo on Somalia, UN monitors following Somalia sanctions are warning that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation are receiving weapons from distribution networks allegedly linked to Yemen and Iran, diplomats told Reuters.
According to the latest findings by the UN Security Council’s monitoring group, which tracks compliance with UN sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea, most illicit arms are coming into northern Somalia - that is, the autonomous Puntland and Somaliland regions - after which they are moved farther south into strongholds of al Shabaab militants.
“The allegations of arm transfers from Iran to Somalia are absurd fabrications and have no basis or validity,” Iran’s UN mission wrote to the UN Security Council in a letter obtained by Reuters. “Thus it is categorically rejected by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“It is unfortunate that the Monitoring Group has, in an obvious irresponsible manner, put such unfounded allegations and strange fabrications in its report, without first bothering itself to communicate them to my Government,” Iran’s UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee wrote to the council.
“It is further regrettable that the content of the report is leaked to the media for propaganda purposes,” he wrote. “This malicious campaign, which is done in the name of the United Nations, endangers the credibility of the Security Council along with that of the United Nations.”
Iran’s UN mission also wrote to the council regarding the allegations about the ship containing arms bound for Yemen. It denied responsibility for those weapons.
“It has been further claimed that the items seized on board… the ship were produced in Iran,” Khazaee wrote in a separate letter to the council. “Even if some of these items were made in Iran, this does not provide any evidence that Iran was involved in the shipment of arms to Yemen.”
According to Reuters, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the 15-nation council should consider lifting the arms embargo to help rebuild Somalia’s security forces and consolidate military gains against the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants.
It is a position that has the strong backing of the United States, which is pushing for an end to the 21-year-old UN arms embargo. The Security Council imposed it in 1992 to cut the flow of arms to feuding warlords, who a year earlier had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged Somalia into civil war.
France and Britain oppose lifting the arms embargo for the government, UN diplomats say, and would prefer a more gradual easing of the restrictions on arms sales to Somalia’s government.
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