Gambia cuts economic, diplomatic ties with Iran

Gambia`s government is cutting off economic, political and social ties with Iran and expects Iranian government officials to leave the tiny West African nation by Wednesday.

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2010, 21:39 PM IST

Banjul: Gambia`s government is
cutting off economic, political and social ties with Iran and expects Iranian government officials to leave the tiny West
African nation by Wednesday.

Gambia`s Foreign Ministry did not say why it was
abruptly severing relations, but a senior Gambian security
official said today the move was linked to Nigeria`s recent
seizure of arms sent from Iran which were allegedly destined
for Gambia.

The official declined to be named because of the
sensitivity of the subject.

Habib Jarra, permanent secretary at Gambia`s Ministry
of Foreign Affairs, denied the weapons seizure was part of the
decision, but he gave no other explanation.

Iran`s ambassador to Gambia also offered no
explanation and said the news was a "surprise."

The Iranian state news agency IRNA, meanwhile, cited
Alaeddin Broujerdi, who heads Iran Foreign Policy
parliamentary commission, as saying the United States had
pressured Gambia to cut relations with Iran because "Iran`s
growing ties with African countries had caused concern in the
US and its allies."

A Gambian Foreign Ministry statement issued yesterday
gave Iranian government officials 48 hours to leave the
country.

Artillery rockets and other weapons, loaded in 13
shipping containers that were labeled as building supplies,
were seized on Oct 26 at a port in Lagos, Nigeria.

Nigeria`s security service said the shipment, which
originated in Iran, may have been destined for Nigerian
politicians intending violence if they lose in upcoming
elections.
The shipment sat untouched for weeks, a common
occurrence at the port, and the Iranian shipper filed a
request for the containers to be picked up again and shipped
to the West African nation of Gambia.

Iran`s foreign minister said at the time the issue had
been a "misunderstanding" that had been settled.
Gambia, a former British colony, is a tiny sliver of
land surrounded on three sides by Senegal. Gambian President
Yahya Jammeh grabbed power in a 1994 coup and has a reputation
for authoritarian rule and cracking down harshly on decent.

In 2006, Jammeh hosted Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad at an African summit in the capital, Banjul. The
visit was seen as an attempt to drum up support from
developing nations its standoff with the United States and
Europe over its nuclear program.

PTI