West raises fears over Iran arms smuggling

Nigerian agents seized 13 containers of Iran weapons in a Lagos port in Oct.

Last Updated: Dec 11, 2010, 10:42 AM IST

New York: Western nations on Friday accused Iran of using "complex and complicated" schemes to trade in arms and explosives in breach of UN nuclear sanctions.

Britain called at the UN Security Council for a possible tightening of sanctions measures while France said sanctions experts should investigate Iran`s "evasion techniques”.

The concerns were raised after the seizure of 13 containers of rockets, mortars and other weapons in Nigeria last month and up to seven tonnes of high explosive in Italy in September.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told a Security Council meeting on Iran sanctions that the new seizures were part of "a pattern of violations" after other raids, some involving Iran`s weapons trade with North Korea.

Lyall Grant said the Security Council`s sanctions committee should "consider making additional designations to prevent further violations and sanctions evasion”.

France`s representative, Martin Briens, said the seizures show that the four rounds of UN sanctions ordered against Iran`s nuclear program are having an impact.

"Iran has to make use of increasingly complex and complicated routes and schemes. Thus we can only underscore the gravity of this type of smuggling," Briens told the council.

He said Iran was behind "a considerable flow of arms and other dangerous material" and that "worrying new routes" for shipments have been found in Africa.

"This is without doubt only the tip of the iceberg," he declared, calling for a more detailed investigation of the two new cases and the "evasion techniques" used by Iran.

US Ambassador Susan Rice backed the calls for a more thorough investigation which she said would "help us better understand and to halt Iran`s arms smuggling and proliferation networks in violation of this council`s resolutions”.

Nigerian agents seized 13 containers of weapons in the port in Lagos in October. The containers were loaded at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and were reportedly destined for Gambia.

An Iranian and three Nigerians face charges in Nigeria. Authorities there also wanted to question an Iranian diplomat, but the Tehran government has refused to lift the diplomat`s immunity.

PTI