Thursday, November 16, 2006

Iran tried to swap guns for Somali uranium

By David Blair, Africa Correspondent London Telegraph Last Updated: 1:29am GMT 16/11/2006 Plutonium find 'is evidence of Iran going ahead with nuclear plan' Iran tried to obtain uranium from Somalia in return for supplying weapons to the anarchic country's Islamist movement, according to the United Nations.The Supreme Council of Islamic Courts is believed to control the uranium-rich areas of Somalia A report given to the Security Council today finds that Iran is one of seven countries breaking a UN arms embargo by providing weapons to the Islamic radicals who control most of southern and central Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu. Three illegal arms shipments from Teheran are detailed in the 86-page report. One consignment which reached Somalia in July included 1,000 machine guns, 45 surface-to-air missiles, M-79 rocket launchers and land mines.After the arrival of this shipment, the UN says that Iran promised the Islamists further weapons – but only in return for uranium, presumably for use in Teheran's nuclear programme. Two Iranians were sent to Mogadishu in order to negotiate this deal. Somalia's recoverable uranium deposits are modest, totalling about 6,600 tonnes, compared with 326,000 tonnes in Canada, the world's biggest producer. But Somalia collapsed into anarchy 15 years ago when its central government was destroyed. The Islamist movement, styling itself the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, is now believed to control the areas where uranium is present.Iran appears to be trying to win the right to exploit these deposits, which could then be shipped to Teheran through Mogadishu's large port.The Islamists captured the city in June and have extended their hold over southern Somalia. Their only rival is the country's ramshackle official government, based in the ruined town of Baidoa.Eritrea is the biggest supplier of weapons to the Islamists, according to the UN. Although Eritrea is not a Muslim country, it is locked in confrontation with Ethiopia over a disputed border. Eritrea hopes to place pressure on its larger neighbour by building the Islamists into a major regional power.

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