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Iran says arms found in Nigeria were for West Africa nation

by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 15, 2010
Iran said Monday an arms shipment discovered in Lagos was being shipped to a West African country by a private company and a "misunderstanding" over it had been cleared up with Nigerian authorities.

"A private company which had sold conventional defence weapons to another country in West Africa had transferred the shipment via Nigeria which raised some doubts with relevant officials," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

Mottaki said an Iranian national who was in Nigeria as the representative of the company "had offered explanations (to Nigerian authorities) and I believe the misunderstanding has been cleared up."

He did not specify whether the firm was Iranian.

On Friday Nigeria threatened to report Iran to the UN Security Council if the arms shipment, which included rockets and grenades, violated sanctions over its sensitive nuclear programme.

Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions for pursuing the programme, which the West suspects is cover for a drive for a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.

Nigeria had backed the latest round of UN sanctions against the Islamic republic on June 9.

Nigerian security agents last month intercepted 13 containers discharged from the vessel CMA CGM Everest at the country's busiest port of Apapa in the economic hub of Lagos.

Shipping firm CMA CGM said the containers had been loaded and sealed in Iran by an Iranian businessman who does not appear on an international list of prohibited traders.

CMA CGM, which is based in France, said the shipment was loaded in Bandar Abbas, a southern port city of Iran, and discharged in Lagos in July.

But some time last month the shipper sought to have the containers reloaded and sent to Gambia, a tiny West African country wedged inside Senegal, according to the firm.

Nigeria's intelligence agency said it had been monitoring the shipment, which was disguised as building materials, before it arrived in the country.

It also said the shipment's destination was Nigeria, and "any argument that the cargo came into the country by mistake is false".

The intended recipient and the clearing agent have been arrested, the agency said.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) meanwhile cancelled a friendly that had been due to be held in Tehran on Wednesday, football authorities from both countries said.

"The NFF wishes to regrettably announce the postponement of its planned international friendly with the Iranian national team," it said in a statement.

"The reason was due to the non availability of key players that pulled out from participating in the international friendly at the last minute."

Iran's football chief Ali Kafashian earlier said NFF had "apologised for this cancellation."

"We must and will claim compensation for the cancellation of this match," Kafashian was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

Nigeria had said late last month that it would bring a 20-man squad to Tehran for the game, including 13 players who ply their trade in European leagues.



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