Alexa

Iran accused of violating UN sanctions

Iran accused of violating UN sanctions

A key Security Council committee reported Tuesday that Iran violated U.N. sanctions by attempting to send weapons-related material, reportedly to Syria, on a cargo ship now docked in Cyprus.
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Yukio Takasu, chairman of the committee monitoring sanctions against Iran, provided few details but his report marked the first official confirmation that the Cypriot-flagged M/V Monchegorsk was attempting to circumvent the U.N. arms embargo on Iran.
He said a U.N. member state _ identified by the United States, Britain and France as Cyprus _ sent a letter to the committee in early February "seeking guidance with respect to its inspections of cargo on a vessel carrying its flag that was found to be carrying arms-related material."
The committee responded with a letter on Feb. 6 that the transfer of the material "constituted 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," Takasu said.
He told the council that the committee sent letters "to concerned member states" on March 9 asking for "any relevant information regarding this transaction" within 10 days.
All 15 Security Council nations are members of the sanctions committee, which means Takasu's report had the backing of the entire council.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers praised "the vigilance and cooperation" of Cyprus and said the March 9 letters were sent to Iran and Syria.
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," Sawers said.
Council diplomats say the ultimate destination of the weapons-related material remains unknown _ possibly Hamas fighters in Gaza, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, or Iraqis with close ties to Syria.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice condemned the sanctions violation and "welcomed the fact that the committee was able to agree that this was indeed a violation and to issue a call upon Iran and Syria to provide prompt explanation for their actions."
The United States expects the committee to "take any appropriate action" after it receives the explanations, she said.
Rice made no mention of reports from European diplomats that the U.S. Navy intercepted the Monchegorsk, confirmed the presence of arms-related material, and alerted Cypriot officials. The ship docked in Cyprus on Jan. 29 and is still there, diplomats said.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert expressed concern because the shipment of "explosives and ... arms" violated sanctions imposed after Iran refused to suspend uranium enrichment.
The government of Cyprus took the only decision possible by holding the material, he said.
"We need to do everything possible to ensure that such violations do not recur," Ripert said. "Enhanced vigilance on the part of all is indispensible here."
Cyprus, with its nearest coastal point only 60 miles (less than 100 kilometers) west of Syria, has traditionally been close to the Arab world. But the Greek-majority island is geographically part of Europe and joined the European Union in 2004, a move formally aligning it with the 26 other nations of the bloc.
There has been no decision of what to do with the cargo.
Britain has signaled that it is ready to help Cyprus dispose of the Monchegorsk's cargo. Caroline Flint, London's minister for Europe, told Damascus officials that Britain and other nations "will want to help in whatever way we can."