Nairobi ,Kenya 11 February,2013 (Reuters) As the United
States pushes for an end to the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia, U.N.
monitors are warning that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa
nation are receiving weapons from distribution networks linked to Yemen
and Iran, diplomats told Reuters.
The U.N. Security Council's
sanctions monitoring team's concerns about Iranian and Yemeni links to
arms supplies for al Shabaab militants come as Yemen
is asking Tehran to stop backing armed groups on Yemeni soil. Last
month the Yemeni coast guard and the U.S. Navy seized a consignment of
missiles and rockets the Sanaa government says were sent by
to the latest findings by the monitoring group, which tracks compliance
with U.N. sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea, most weapons deliveries are
coming into northern Somalia - that is, the autonomous Puntland and
Somaliland regions - after which they are moved farther south into al
The supply chains in Yemen are largely Somali networks in that country, council diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
is just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia's northern coast, making
it easy to move all kinds of goods - legal and illegal - from the Middle
East into Somaliland and Puntland.
Galguduud (central Somalia), Shabaab received arms, including IED
(improvised explosive device) components," a Security Council diplomat
said, referring to one of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group's most
recent confidential reports. Several other council diplomats confirmed
Other weapons supplied included PKM machine guns, said the group's monthly report for January.
Iran's track record, both with regard to support for terror and with
regard to proliferation, it would obviously not surprise us at all if
they were now trying to make common cause with al Shabaab," U.S. State
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
monitors were scheduled to informally brief Security Council members on
Friday but the meeting was canceled due to a blizzard, diplomats said.
The U.N. monitors favor a gradual easing of the arms embargo rather
lifting it as the Americans and the Somali government advocate, the
Yemen is proving to
be crucial for arming al Shabaab, the monitors' reporting shows,
because it is feeding arms into northern Somalia and because it has
become a playing field for Iranian interests in Somalia and elsewhere.
U.N. Security Council's Panel of Experts on Iran, which monitors
compliance with the Iran sanctions regime, including the arms embargo on
Tehran, is also looking at Yemen and evidence of Iranian arms shipments
across Africa, council diplomats told Reuters.
Iran's U.N. mission did not have an immediate comment.
The monitors found Iranian and North Korean-made weapons that came to Somalia via
at a base of the U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping force in
Somalia. Diplomats who follow the issue said the arms were apparently
recovered by the peacekeepers and raised important questions.
"Why are Iranian and North Korean small arms finding their way into Somalia from
? Do they date from before the arms embargoes (against North Korea
and Iran)? How did they get there from Libya?" a council diplomat asked.
"It certainly emphasizes the point that Somalia is a country awash with arms and still very fragile," the diplomat said.
CONCERNS ABOUT LIFTING ARMS EMBARGO
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the 15-nation council should
consider lifting the arms embargo to help rebuild Somalia's security
forces and consolidate military gains against the al Qaeda-linked al
It is a position
that has the strong backing of the United States, which is pushing for
an end to the 21-year-old U.N. arms embargo. The Security Council
imposed it in 1992 to cut the flow of arms to feuding warlords, who a
year earlier had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged Somalia
into civil war.
said Ban's recommendation to support an end to the embargo did not
appear in earlier drafts of his report but was added later on.
is not the first time that a secretary-general's reports on various
issues have been amended before publication in response to complaints
from member states.
deny that Washington pressured Ban to support lifting the arms embargo
against the Somali government. Nuland said the idea was to consider
lifting the embargo for the government while keeping arms out of
"This is not an
effort, in our view, to end the arms embargo wholesale," she said.
"Somalia, countries in the region, the AU (African Union) want the way
the thing is structured to be reviewed in light of the new realities.
... We do need to maintain the embargo on non-state actors, on al
Shabaab, et cetera."
one of the new realities is that Somalia finally has a legitimate
government. The United States last month recognized Somalia's government
for the first time in more than two decades.
Diplomats said Britain,
are the council members most reluctant to end the embargo, preferring a
gradual easing of it instead. The Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group
has also opposed the idea of lifting it and see their latest findings as
proof of why that would be unwise, diplomats said.
who oppose scrapping the arms embargo say Somalia's security sector
still includes elements close to warlords and militants, an allegation
the Somali government rejects. They also say the government can still
get arms despite the embargo via requests to the U.N. sanctions
"There are no Somali
warlords that threaten peace and stability in Somalia," the alternate
permanent representative for Somalia, Idd Beddel Mohamed, told Reuters.
"They are normal citizens now, members of parliament. The embargo must
But diplomats said the
monitors have a different view - namely that specific units of the
Somali security forces have links to warlords and are putting pressure
on the Somali government to push for the arms embargo to be lifted.
in favor of lifting the embargo want a monitoring mechanism to ensure
that arms purchased by the government do not end up in the hands of
insurgents. But they also say that the government should have the means
to continue improving security around the country as it appears to have
al Shabaab on the run.
discussions on the Somalia arms embargo are expected to continue through
March, when the Security Council must pass a resolution to renew the
mandate of the AU peacekeeping force.