UN experts trace seized arms to Iran

The finding comes days before negotiations aimed at gradually lifting international sanctions on Tehran.

The finding comes days before negotiations aimed at gradually lifting international sanctions on Tehran. Picture: AFP.

UNITED NATIONS - A United Nations (UN) expert panel concluded that a shipment of rockets and other weapons that were seized by Israel came from Iran and represents a violation of the UN arms embargo on Tehran.

The finding comes just days ahead of the next round of negotiations in Vienna between Iran and six world powers aimed at securing a deal that would gradually lift international sanctions on Tehran, including the arms embargo, in exchange for curbs on the controversial Iranian nuclear programme.

Despite Israel's public statements that the seized arms were destined for Gaza, an allegation that Gaza's governing Islamist militant group Hamas dismissed as a fabrication, the experts said the weapons were being sent to Sudan.

The experts do not speculate in the report about why the arms were being sent to Sudan, a country which Western diplomatic and intelligence sources have told Reuters has in the past been a conduit for Iranian arms shipments to other locations in Africa, as well as the Gaza Strip.

The experts said the Israeli UN mission wrote to the UN Iran Sanctions Committee on 13 March about "the transfer of rockets, mortars and related material from Iran to Sudan."

The 14-page report on the incident by the UN Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran makes no mention of the Gaza Strip as a possible destination for the arms, which were concealed in 20 containers on the Panamanian-flagged vessel Klos C. The weaponry was seized by Israeli authorities in March.

The vessel was intercepted by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea before it reached Sudan.

"The Panel finds that the manner of concealment in this case is consistent with several other cases reported to the (Security Council's Iran Sanctions) Committee and investigated by the Panel," the experts said.

"The Panel concludes that the shipment of arms and related materiel found aboard the Klos C is a violation of Iran's obligations under paragraph 5 of resolution 1747," they added, referring to the UN arms embargo on Tehran.

Despite Iranian denials, the experts said official seals from Iranian customs authorities on containers that held some of the arms "substantiate the Iranian origin of those containers." Further evidence on the Iranian origin came from the Iranian bill of lading, cargo manifest and the container stowage plan.