Iran to UN: Arms ship seizure illegal

Teheran says cargo of alleged Gaza-bound vessel within framework of normal trade transactions.

cyprus ship iran arms hamas 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
cyprus ship iran arms hamas 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The seizure of explosives from a Cypriot-flagged Iranian ship believed to be bound for Gaza has "no legal basis," Iran complained in a letter to the UN Security Council released Friday. The letter from Iran's UN ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said that the complaint was in response to "certain allegations against Iran concerning the Cypriot-flagged vessel M/V Monchegorsk." Last month, a United Nations sanctions committee demanded an explanation from Iran and Syria as to how they were involved with the ship. At a Security Council meeting in New York, the ambassadors of France and Britain described the episode as a "gross violation" of existing resolutions banning Iranian arms exports due to its controversial nuclear program. British envoy John Sawers said the UK looked 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. "Despite some politically-motivated allegations made by certain media and others about the cargo of the M/V Monchegorsk vessel, we wish to stress that the consignment of the said ship falls within the framework of normal trade transactions, and any allegations to the contrary are baseless," the Iranian letter stated. "Accordingly, measures that have been taken in intercepting the ship's cargo and storing the said vessel's shipment have no legal basis, and the right to seek compensation through appropriate mechanisms remains reserved in this regard," it added. Iran reiterated that its nuclear program "is completely peaceful, ... poses no threat to international peace and security, and therefore does not fall within the security council's purview by any stretch of law, logic or interpretation." Cypriot authorities unloaded the ship's cargo in February and said the vessel carried more than 90 containers loaded with "raw material that could be used in the manufacture of munitions." The cargo was taken to a Cypriot naval base. Diplomats in New York have told The Jerusalem Post that Cyprus has been eager to cooperate with its European Union allies on the issue, but the island nation has not yet taken any steps to destroy the cargo. The ship had been anchored off the port of Limassol since it arrived on January 29 under suspicion from US officials of ferrying weapons from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. The ship had been turned away from an Egyptian port and the US military said it found artillery shells and other arms aboard the vessel after stopping it earlier January in the Red Sea. But the US could not legally detain the ship, which continued on to Cyprus. Allison Hoffman, Jerusalem Post correspondent in New York, contributed to this report