Italy arrests Iran weapons smugglers as nuclear pressure builds
Italy said Wednesday it arrested seven alleged Iran weapons smugglers and charged that some are Iranian intelligence agents. The move comes as momentum builds for fresh sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
Suspected Iranian intelligence agents were among seven people arrested in Italy on suspicion of weapons trafficking to Iran, in an operation that adds to Western diplomatic pressure building over Iran's nuclear program.Skip to next paragraph
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Two Iranians – including a journalist accredited to Rome’s foreign press club – and five Italians were arrested in several cities overnight, according to Italian police. Warrants were issued for two other Iranians in operation “sniper.”
All four Iranians “are believed to be members of the Iranian secret services,” the Italian police said in statement. Since last June, police have tapped into a ring that exported weapons, ordnance, and explosives to Iran from Italy and via third countries.
Italian police said the operation stopped the export of a large quantity of tracer bullets, explosives from Eastern Europe, and material for incendiary bombs, Reuters reported from Milan. Police worked with counterparts in Britain, Switzerland, and Romania also stopped a flow of German-made optical equipment and military jackets.
During a news conference, an officer from the Guardia di Finanza headquarters in Milan held a large rifle scope confiscated during one of the arrests. Bullets, pistols, and other military gear were also displayed. Iran is subject to an international arms embargo.
The arrests are a further diplomatic blow for Iran, which has seen its recent efforts to convince the United Nations, the US, and European capitals about the peaceful nature of its controversial nuclear effort dissolve instead this year into renewed momentum for sanctions against Iran.
A nuclear weapons program?
The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, on Monday said Iran was not providing the “necessary cooperation” to determine that its nuclear drive is exclusively peaceful.
On Wednesday, the European Union issued a joint statement saying it was “ready to engage with Iran in order to reach a negotiated solution to the issue,” but that a fourth round of UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions await a negative result.