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‘No Settlement with Iran Yet’

16 Nov 2010

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Foreign Minister, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, has not given his Iranian counterpart Mr. Manouchehr Mottaki a firm promise of  visiting his country after an invitation to that effect nor has there been any settlement of misunderstanding over the arms shipment intercepted in Lagos recently.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mr Ozo Nwobu, told THISDAY yesterday that "first and foremost, the matter is still under investigation which prompted Nigeria to inform the United Nations prior to the outcome".
According to him, the invitation by the Iranian government meant to forestall breakdown of diplomatic relationship was still a proposal under consideration.

Mottaki returned to his country after a visit to Nigeria and announced that the issue of arms shipment to Nigeria by Iranian citizens had been settled and this was followed by a letter of invitation to Ajumogobia to visit his country.

Meanwhile, a United States military analysis website, strategypage.com, has speculated that the weapons shipment may have been destined to some groups in Nigeria to enforce a religious dictatorship.

The article entitled “the Hidden Menace” claimed that Iran has been supporting the Shia minority in northern Nigeria, which has brought forth denunciation from Sunni Islamic leaders.

“There are 5-10 million Shia and over 60 million Sunni in Nigeria and most Shia want a religious dictatorship like Iran, running the country using Islamic law. While many in the Sunni majority agree with this, the religious differences between Shia and Sunni cause tension and violence,” the article alleged.

It noted that while the Nigerian Shia are considered less-than-orthodox by the senior Shia clergy back in Iran and Iraq, they are still recognised as Shia, and Iran has provided some support most of it illegal, in the form of cash smuggled in to help sustain Shia organisations.

“But the 13 cargo containers of weapons may be an escalation in this support,” the website devoted to monitoring wars and movement of arms amongst other things suggested, adding that what makes it worse was that at least two Nigerians were involved in the operation, as well as an Iranian diplomat.

Yesterday, Ajumogobia confirmed THISDAY's report that Nigeria had reported Tehran to the UN over the cache of high caliber arms which originated from Bandar Abbas, a southern port city in Iran.
"Following preliminary investigations, our permanent mission in New York has reported the seizure and inspection of the arms shipment from Iran," he said.

This somehow contradicts an earlier statement made by his Iranian counterpart, Mottaki, who visited Nigeria recently that the misunderstanding between the two countries regarding the arms was over.

During Mottaki''s visit, he gave permission to Nigerian security officers to interrogate one of its citizens accused of bringing in the rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives through ship and that was done by Nigeria’s security services.

Security agencies intercepted 13 containers conveying the ammunition in the main port in Apapa, Lagos two weeks before.
Ajumogobia had said Nigeria would take necessary actions if it found out that the shipment goes against international law and THISDAY broke the story of the issue being reported to the United Nations on Monday.
When the cargo was discovered, Israeli authorities believed the consignors were trying to discover a new route to transport arms to Gaza and was avoiding an old route where a blockade is in place.

But Nigeria's State Security Service argued that the ship was destined for the African country because the Bill of Lading on the hidden cargo suggested that it conveyed Building materials comprising Glasswood and Pallets of stones with destination as Nigeria.

This assumption was faulted by Mottaki who said the weapons were destined for another African nation which he did not name.
The weapons which were described as similar to those used against United States forces in Afghanistan were conveyed to the port by MV CMA-CGM Everest registered in Marshall Islands and owned by a shipping company in France.

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