Senegal recalls envoy to Iran

Arms seizure in Nigeria, allegedly bound for neighbouring Gambia, has dented Tehran's quest for influence in Africa.

    Analysts say the arms may have been bound for Senegal's restive southern Casamance region [GALLO/GETTY]

    Senegal has recalled its ambassador to Iran over an arms scandal in which military-grade weapons were shipped into the region allegedly bound for neighbouring Gambia.

    Madicke Niang, the Senegalese foreign minister, made the announcement in a statement on Tuesday, saying the explanations Iran had given for the affair were "not satisfactory".

    "True to the need for peace and security which should guide ties between states, and deeming unsatisfactory the explanations provided by the Iranian side in this affair, Senegal has decided to recall its ambassador to Iran for consultations as of today," the statement said.

    Senegalese analysts have said the arms may have been bound for Senegal's restive southern Casamance region, where rebels have waged a low-level uprising against the government since 1983.

    The Senegalese move comes just one day after Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, was sacked while on a two-day visit to the West African state, partly to explain the affair.

    Artillery rockets and other weapons loaded in shipping containers labeled as building supplies were seized in October at a port in Lagos, Nigeria.

    Nigerian authorities have charged an Iranian national for attempting to import prohibited weapons with the intent of sending them to nearby Gambia, which has since severed all diplomatic ties with Iran.

    Al-Qud's link?

    The seizure in Lagos prompted two Iranians to seek refuge in Iran's embassy in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

    Diplomats and security sources identified the two as members of Iran's al-Quds force, the foreign operations unit of its Revolutionary Guard.

    The purpose of the shipment remains unclear.

    Before Gambia abruptly severed all ties with Iran, it had hosted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, on a number of visits and had economic, agricultural and security ties.

    Iran has existing trade ties with Senegal and in May offered to carry out infrastructure projects including road, railway, port and airport construction.

    Reasons behind Mottaki's abrupt sacking were not given but analysts suggested it tightened Ahmadinejad's grip on foreign policy and was a demonstration of his political power.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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