Syria top destination for illegal Iran arms - U.N.

Wed May 11, 2011 8:20pm GMT

* Iran flouts U.N. sanctions to develop nuclear enrichment

* Iran appears to be expanding presence in Africa

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 (Reuters) - Most of Iran's breaches of a U.N. arms embargo have been illegal weapons deliveries to Syria, which Western diplomats say were to be passed on to Lebanese and Palestinian militants, a U.N. report says.

The report by the U.N. Security Council's so-called Panel of Experts, a newly formed committee that reports on compliance with four rounds of U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran for refusing to halt its nuclear enrichment program, also says Tehran flouts the sanctions as it continues to develop its atomic program.

Western powers and their allies say they suspect Iran is developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program. Iran insists its only aim is the peaceful generation of electricity and refuses to halt its enrichment program.

"The Panel notes that most reported incidents of conventional arms-related violations involve Syria, which has a long and close relationship with Iran," said the confidential report, which was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

"In all such incidents inspected by the Panel, prohibited material was carefully concealed to avoid routine inspection and hide the identity of end-users," it said.

The panel noted that it was likely that "transfers took place undetected and that other illicit shipments were identified but not reported to the (Sanctions) Committee."   Continued...

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