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Weapons, Allegedly Destined for Iran, Seized in Latvia

Lisa McAdams
Voice of America, Moscow

Security police and customs officials in the Latvian capital, Riga, have seized what was described as a sizable illegal shipment of weapons reportedly bound for Iran. Experts say the aging gear was likely bound for terrorist groups for the purpose of updating and repairing existing equipment.

Latvian police say the shipment, disguised as farm products, actually contained night vision goggles, spare parts for armored vehicles and anti-aircraft systems.

According to the police, the illegal cargo seized at Riga's airport weighs in at 28 tons and has an estimated value of $315,000. Authorities believe the shipment came from Russia and was destined for Iran.

No one has been detained in connection with the incident, which is under investigation.

Officials said the shipment attracted police attention because it did not include proper licenses authorizing export, and it failed to clarify the origin of the goods.

Authorities are investigating the possibility that the cargo was shipped by several offshore companies.

A police spokeswoman says authorities do not believe the cargo was meant to be used by the Iranian army, as the equipment was very old. But the spokeswoman says experts say the Russian military hardware could very well have been used to update or repair existing equipment belonging to terrorist organizations in Iran.

Iran is subject to U.S. sanctions preventing the export of arms and spare parts for its forces, having been declared part of an axis of evil by President Bush.

The United States accuses Tehran of arming and training militant Islamic groups across the Middle East, a charge Iran strongly denies.

Russia has been Iran's biggest arms supplies ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

... Payvand News - 8/22/03 ... --

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