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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Saudi hosts secret talks on Iran arms to Hezbollah, excludes Qatar: report

A secret meeting was held between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh last month to discuss Saudi Arabia’s concerns over the "smuggling of Iranian arms to Hezbollah by sea," according to an article published on February 15 in the German newspaper, Die Welt.

The article stated that “the faltering of Syria, and Iran’s attempt to procure other ways to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah prompted a perturbed Saudi Arabia to hold a secret meeting with other members of the GCC in the capital, Riyadh, on January 18.”

GCC members – apart from Qatar, which was excluded from the meeting – also discussed the threats made by senior Iranian officials to close down the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically important route linking Gulf countries to the outside world.

The newspaper obtained data from “Western intelligence agencies” and mentioned that the oil-rich kingdom refrained from inviting Qatar to the secret congregation since “it is not reliable on issues related to Iran.”

The article stated that the head of the Saudi National Security Council, Bandar Bin Sultan, presented information that supposedly shows that the al-Quds Force (a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards) changed its usual methods and routes in supplying arms to Hezbollah, the Islamic Youth Movement in Somalia, Eritrea, and other “extremist organizations” in East and North Africa.

“After some failed attempts at smuggling arms, Tehran is searching for alternate routes that could become strategic links between Iran and Hezbollah,” Bin Sultan was quoted as saying by Die Welt.
Saudi officials also claimed there have been numerous joint transactions between the Iranian National Shipment Company and several arms manufacturing firms, namely the Shahid Hemmat company that specializes in manufacturing surface-to-surface missiles.

Saudi Arabia also accused Iran of using civilian aircraft to transport weapons.

The German newspaper mentioned that “continued smuggling of arms through the coast of Sudan and Suez Canal to North Africa” has led to an increase in military activities in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The paper also mentioned that the commander in chief of al-Quds Force, Kassem Sleimani, recently visited Syria and met with “Syrian officials to discuss the methods to overcome the barriers that prevent the smuggling of arms.”

Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of efforts to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, raising concerns among sections of Syria's opposition that the Gulf kingdom aims to turn the crisis-plagued country into a proxy war against arch rival Iran.

(Al-Akhbar)

Moammar Atwi contributed to this report
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