Wall Street Journal: The U.S. called on the United Nations to take action after a Security Council committee said Iran violated international sanctions banning it from exporting munitions, which the U.S. says were headed to Syria.
The Wall Street Journal
By JOE LAURIA
UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. called on the United Nations to take action after a Security Council committee said Iran violated international sanctions banning it from exporting munitions, which the U.S. says were headed to Syria.
A U.S. official said the incident occurred Jan. 19 and 20, when the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk, which originated in Iran, was boarded in the Red Sea by the USS San Antonio. The ship was ordered to port in Cyprus, where authorities there found 1,980 wooden cases of powder for 130mm guns and 1,320 cases of powder and powder pellets for 125mm guns, according to a Cypriot government report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Also discovered were 60 barrels full of 39mm shells, 810 cases of propellant for 125mm guns and eight cases of 120mm mortar components, the report said. Three of the 98 containers onboard were too heavy to move and still haven't been searched, the report said. The munitions are being stored on Cyprus.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters after a meeting of the 15-member Security Council Tuesday that she "clearly condemned the violation of the Monchegorsk vessel." She said she backed the move by the council's committee monitoring the sanctions to give Iran and Syria 10 working days "to provide prompt explanation for their actions."
"We would then expect the committee to follow up and take any appropriate action," Ms. Rice said, but added, "I don't think this is the place to foreshadow what that action will be."
After the Security Council meeting, Iran issued a statement that ignored the U.N. findings and reasserted that its nuclear program was peaceful.
The incident comes amid continued concern about Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which the West fears has a military purpose. Iran says the program is for civilian use only. The Security Council three times imposed sanctions on Iran to force it to suspend enrichment. Though the Obama administration has signaled a thawing of relations with Iran, Ms. Rice told the Security Council that after this incident the U.N. must redouble its efforts to monitor the sanctions.
The discovery of arms is worrying to Washington because the U.S. and Israel have long maintained that Iran and Syria supply Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza with armaments.
In a March, 2007 resolution, the Security Council imposed an arms export embargo on Iran tacitly designed to prevent those groups from getting arms. The resolution suggests that embargo violations can be punished by non-military measures "such as complete or partial interruption of economic relations and … the severance of diplomatic relations."