AFP: Gambia rejected Thursday claims that it was the intended recipient of a cargo of weapons from Iran that was intercepted in Nigeria, and accused neighbour Senegal of a campaign of “hatred” over the case.
BANJUL (AFP) — Gambia rejected Thursday claims that it was the intended recipient of a cargo of weapons from Iran that was intercepted in Nigeria, and accused neighbour Senegal of a campaign of “hatred” over the case.
Nigeria last month reported to the UN Security Council its find of 13 containers of weapons, including rockets and grenades, shipped from Iran. The incident is a possible violation of international sanctions against Tehran.
Senegal has alleged the weapons were destined for Gambia, which the Gambian government strongly denied in a statement broadcast on television that accused Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade of being behind the claims.
“If those arms were for the Gambia, let it be clear that there is no power on earth that would have prevented the Gambia from negotiating with the Federal Republic of Nigeria for their release to the Gambia,” it said.
“Unfortunately, Abdoulaye Wade decided to disregard this fact and jumped to his illogical and outrageous conclusions apparently blinded by his hatred of the Gambia.”
“President Wade thinks that he can use the arms shipment from Iran in Nigeria to go around the world through envoys to mount a campaign against the Gambia,” it said.
Iran and Gambia, both criticised for their poor human rights record, had long been allies but Gambia severed their ties on November 22, a move a source in the presidency told AFP was “directly linked” to the arms case.
Senegal’s foreign ministry expressed Tuesday “serious concern” about the weapons, saying they were intended for Gambia and were of various types and included “ammunition for heavy weapons”.
The Senegalese press has reported that Dakar fears the arms were destined for rebels seeking independence for southern Senegal, the Movement for Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC), said to have bases in Gambia.
Dakar last month recalled its ambassador to Tehran, reproaching Iran for not providing “satisfactory” explanations about the weapons.
Gambia denies it is a MFDC base and instead claims that Senegal is a refuge for Gambian dissidents who want to overthrow the regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
“Gambia cannot and will never be dictated by any state not to arm or what types of arms we should purchase irrespective of what is going on in a neighboring country especially Casamance,” the government statement added.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme including a ban on arms sales. It has said the arms shipment was by a private company.