Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gambia Cuts Ties with Iran over Nigeria’s Arms Seizure

Gambian President
The Gambia has reacted to the recent seizure of arms at the Apapa Port in Lagos by the State Security Service (SSS) by cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran and sending its foreign officials home.

The arms which were loaded at an Iranian port were confirmed by the country’s foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki as heading to another West African country.
SSS intercepted the haul of rockets and other explosives last month and Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, said it appeared the weapons were to be transshipped to The Gambia though investigations are ongoing.
Nigeria reported the seizure to the UN Security Council, where diplomats said Tehran could be in breach of sanctions imposed over its refusal to halt nuclear activities.
"All government of The Gambia projects and programmes, which were (being) implemented in cooperation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been cancelled," the Gambian Foreign Ministry said in a statement quoted by Reuters yesterday.
It added that Iranian government personnel had 48 hours to leave the country. While it gave no official reason for the move, sources close to the ministry said it was linked to the arms seizure.
Investigations have focused on two Iranians believed to be senior members of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's elite military force, diplomatic and security sources said.
SSS was able to question one of the men, who had taken refuge in the Iranian embassy in Abuja.
But a second Iranian, who was said to have diplomatic immunity, sneaked away on the entourage of the country’s foreign minister, Mottaki, who visited Nigeria after the incident.
Observers said the decision to expel all Iranian diplomats would bring to an end several projects funded by Iran, such as the $2 billion agreement to supply The Gambia with heavy and commercial vehicles.
The two countries, both of which have faced criticism over their human rights records, have had fairly close ties.