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March 10, 2009

Iran violating UN sanctions

POLITICS - An United Nations Security Council committee reported today that Iran has violated UN sanctions by trying to send weapons-grade material to Syria, on a cargo ship now docked in Cyprus. The ship, the Monchegorsk, was intercepted by the U.S. Navy and forced the ship to dock in Cyprus on January 29th and is still be held there.

According to France's UN ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, the shipment contains "explosives, high explosive shells, 125 mm armor-piercing shells, and high explosive anti-tank propellant" and arms.

Copies of the ship's manifest indicated that the Monchegorsk was chartered by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line, that the cargo was loaded in Iran and was to be unloaded in Lataki, Syria.

Japan's UN ambassador, Yukio Takasu, chair of the committee monitoring sanctions against Iran, confirmed in his report that this marked the first official confirmation that Iran was trying to circumvent the UN arms embargo. All 15 Security Council nations are members of the sanctions committee, which means Takasu's report had the unanimous backing of the entire council.

In February Cyprus sent a letter to the UN committee "seeking guidance with respect to its inspections of cargo on a vessel carrying its flag that was found to be carrying arms-related material," says Takasu. Cyprus didn't know what to do with the ship once they had found out it was carrying explosives and needed advice.

The UN committee responded with a letter saying the transfer of the material was a violation of a 2007 Security Council resolution that prohibits Iran from transferring any arms or related material and requires all countries to prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran.

The sanctions were imposed after Iran refused to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be used both to make nuclear fuel or weapons grade plutonium for the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

Takasu told the council that the committee sent letters to "concerned member states" (including Britain, France and the United States) on March 9th asking for any relevant information within 10 days. Similar letters were also sent to Iran and Syria asking for an explanation.

Britain "looks forward to the committee receiving explanations from Iran and Syria as to why the shipment was permitted by Iran as the reported state of origin, and as to the involvement of Syria as the reported state of destination," says Britain's UN ambassador, John Sawers.

UN Security Council diplomats say the ultimate destination of the weapons-related material remains unknown – possibly Hamas fighters in Gaza, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, or even Iraqis with close ties to Syria. It is fairly certain the explosives and weapons were meant to be used for terrorism.

There has been no decision on what to do with the cargo, though Britain has signaled that it is ready to help Cyprus dispose of the explosives.

NOTE: China and Russia have been selling Iran a lot of missile technology in recent years, which is making some people in Israel and the USA rather nervous.

See Also:
Iran is evil, says Stephen Harper
Russia sells Iran missiles
Iran's 1st nuclear plant in operation
Isratine? An One State Solution for Israel and Palestine
Israel attacks Lebanon supplies ship
Pirates hijack oil tanker
Oil pirates drown in rough seas

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