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Iran: Arms shipment intercepted in Nigeria was a misunderstanding

By the CNN Wire
  • Iranian foreign minister: Shipment was to be transferred in Nigeria, not stop there
  • Nigerian security forces say they think it was bound for Nigeria
  • Foreign minister: Shipper has explained to Nigerian authorities

(CNN) -- Iran's foreign minister said Monday that a shipment of arms intercepted in Nigeria was shipped from a private company and destined for another West African country.

"A private company which had sold conventional and defensive weapons to a West African country had transferred the shipment through Nigeria," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters, according to Iran's state-run Press TV.

Security forces in Nigeria said last week they believed the shipment was bound for Nigeria.

The country's security service said it seized 13 shipping containers in the port of Lagos filled with illegal weapons, including rockets, grenades and bullets. Each shipping container carried 20 wooden crates, and a leading global shipping company said the weaponry came from Iran.

Mottaki said Monday that a representative of the company that shipped the arms had met with Nigerian authorities to explain the situation.

"Our enemies had insinuated that the shipment was intended for Nigeria," Mottaki said, Press-TV reported.

Mottaki and his Nigerian counterpart, Odein Ajumogobia, met Thursday, with Mottaki pledging Iran's cooperation in the investigation.

The company that shipped the arms, CMA CGM, said it was a victim of a false cargo declaration. The shipper listed the materials inside the containers as "packages of glass wool and pallets of stone."

The containers in question were loaded in Bandar Abbas, a port in southern Iran, and discharged in Lagos in July, the company said.

There has been Christian-Muslim sectarian violence in northern Nigeria, and analysts say the upcoming vote will potentially be one of the most controversial and violent election periods in the country's history. It pits President Goodluck Jonathan, from the Christian south, against candidates from the Muslim north.