U.N. experts trace recent seized arms to Iran, violating embargo
UNITED NATIONS — A United Nations expert panel has concluded that a shipment of rockets and other weapons seized by Israel came from Iran and represents a violation of the arms embargo on Tehran, according to a confidential report obtained by Reuters.
The next round of negotiations in Vienna between Iran and six world powers this week will be aimed at securing a deal that would gradually lift international sanctions on Tehran, including the arms embargo, in exchange for curbs on the controversial Iranian nuclear program.
Despite Israel's public statements that the seized arms were destined for Gaza — an allegation that Gaza's governing Islamist militant group Hamas dismissed as a fabrication — the experts said the weapons were being sent to Sudan.
The experts do not speculate in the report, viewed on Friday, about why the arms were being sent to Sudan, a country which Western diplomatic and intelligence sources have told Reuters has in the past been a conduit for Iranian arms shipments to other locations in Africa, as well as the Gaza Strip.
The experts said the Israeli U.N. mission wrote to the U.N. Iran Sanctions Committee on March 13 about “the transfer of rockets, mortars and related materiel from Iran to Sudan.”
The 14-page report on the incident by the U.N. Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran makes no mention of the Gaza Strip as a possible destination for the arms, which were concealed in 20 containers on the Panamanian-flagged vessel Klos C. The weaponry was seized by Israeli authorities in March.
The U.N. experts reached their conclusion after investigating the case and inspecting the seized cargo and documentation related to the shipment, which traveled from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, and from there in the direction of Port Sudan.
The vessel was intercepted by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea before it reached Sudan.
“The Panel finds that the manner of concealment in this case is consistent with several other cases reported to the (Security Council's Iran Sanctions) Committee and investigated by the Panel,” the experts said.
“The Panel concludes that the shipment of arms and related materiel found aboard the Klos C is a violation of Iran's obligations under paragraph 5 of resolution 1747,” they added, referring to the U.N. arms embargo on Tehran.
Despite Iranian denials, the experts said official seals from Iranian customs authorities on containers that held some of the arms “substantiates the Iranian origin of those containers.” Further evidence on the Iranian origin came from the Iranian bill of lading, cargo manifest and the container stowage plan.
Iran's U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The report includes details on the arms, which were concealed in a shipment of cement: 40 M302 rockets and fuses, including four different variations of the rockets; 181 120 mm mortar shells; roughly 400,000 pieces of 7.62-caliber ammunition.
The experts could not confirm the Israeli allegation that some of the weapons were made in Syria.
“According to Israeli officials, the rockets were produced in Syria by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC),” they said. “No markings were identified on the rockets during the Panel's inspection that would have allowed confirmation of the Syrian origin of the rockets.”
“One expert notes that the Syrian origin of the rockets cannot be independently established and neither can the movement of the rockets from Syria to Iran,” the report added.
It was not clear from the report what, if any, role Iraq could have played in the smuggling of weaponry. The 20 containers that held the illicit arms were part of the 100-container shipment loaded onto the Klos C at Bandar Abbas, Iran.
The 50 containers of cement loaded onto the ship at Umm Qasr in Iraq did not contain weapons, the report said, citing information the experts had received from Israeli authorities.
The experts said the concealment techniques were similar to other cases of alleged sanctions violations by Iran they have investigated — in Nigeria, arms were shipped amid crates of marble; in other cases reported by Israel arms were hidden in containers with polyethylene pellets, lentils and cotton.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.