Iran denies shipping arms to Islamist militants in Somalia
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran has denied allegations that it has been supplying Islamist militants in Somalia with weapons, describing the charges as "absurd fabrications," according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Thursday.
As the United States pushes for an end to the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia, U.N. monitors following Somalia sanctions are warning that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation are receiving weapons from distribution networks linked to Yemen and Iran, diplomats told Reuters.
According to the latest findings by the U.N. Security Council's monitoring group, which tracks compliance with U.N. sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea, most illicit arms are coming into northern Somalia - that is, the autonomous Puntland and Somaliland regions - after which they are moved farther south into strongholds of Islamist al Shabaab militants.
"The allegations of arm transfers from Iran to Somalia are absurd fabrications and have no basis or validity," Iran's U.N. mission wrote to the U.N. Security Council in a letter obtained by Reuters. "Thus it is categorically rejected by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
"It is unfortunate that the Monitoring Group has, in an obvious irresponsible manner, put such unfounded allegations and strange fabrications in its report, without first bothering itself to communicate them to my Government," Iran's U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee wrote to the council.
"It is further regrettable that the content of the report is leaked to the media for propaganda purposes," he wrote. "This malicious campaign, which is done in the name of the United Nations, endangers the credibility of the Security Council along with that of the United Nations."
The monitoring team's concerns about Iranian and Yemeni links to arms supplies for al Shabaab militants come as Yemen is asking Tehran to stop backing armed groups on Yemeni soil. Last month the Yemeni coast guard and the U.S. Navy seized a consignment of missiles and rockets the Sanaa government says were sent by Iran. Continued...