UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Iran and Russia joined China and nine other states as direct weapons suppliers for Sudan after a U.N. embargo was imposed in 2004, a human rights group said in a report published on Tuesday.
China’s position as Khartoum’s top arms supplier is well known and has long been criticized by human rights activists and Western governments. Other suspected weapons suppliers, such as Iran, are rarely mentioned.
In a report dismissed by Sudan, the New York- and Washington-based activist group Human Rights First said it used public databases to compile data on weapons transfers to Sudan.
That country was hit with a U.N. arms embargo to keep weapons out of its western Darfur region, where Khartoum has been accused of genocide by the United States and the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.
Sudan rejects the allegations of genocide and has said it would never hand over either of the two men indicted by The Hague-based ICC for war crimes in Darfur. The ICC prosecutor in July asked the court’s judges to indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir as well.
Human Rights First said China had probably provided tens of millions of dollars of arms to Sudan since 2004, despite its declared weapon sales value of less than $1 million.
There are other suppliers, the group alleges.
“Iran reports total arms sales of over $12 million to Sudan, including almost $8 million worth of tanks,” it said.
That is consistent with information from Western diplomats, who have told Reuters that Tehran was selling Sudan arms in an attempt to cement ties and deepen military cooperation.
Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, told Reuters that groups like Human Rights First were “just branches of Western intelligence in the garb of human rights.”
“We dismiss them,” he said, adding that the timing of the report showed it was an attempt by Western powers to link Iran’s and Sudan’s cases and increase pressure on Khartoum.
He did not deny that Sudan bought weapons from abroad. “We have the right to import arms from anywhere we wish,” he said.
The spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission could not be reached for comment.
Western diplomats say cooperation between Iran and Sudan makes sense given that both countries feel harassed by the West and are on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, Sudan for Darfur and Iran because of its nuclear program.
INDIA, RUSSIA ALSO SUPPLIERS
India is another arms supplier to Sudan, the report said. It said India claimed to have supplied only $200,000 worth of arms, but an Indian defense firm entered into contracts worth over $17 million in 2005 “to provide battlefield surveillance radar, communication equipment and night vision equipment.”
Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has sold Sudan “33 new military aircraft since 2004, and has reportedly provided training, advisers and pilots for Russian aircraft in the Sudanese air force,” the report said.
“Some Russian pilots have reportedly flown missions over Darfur,” the group added.
Other direct arms suppliers are Belarus, Cyprus, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey, it said.
There are other countries listed as indirect suppliers — states whose arms have ended up in Sudan but not necessarily due to direct sales. Those countries include the United States, the Czech Republic, France, Germany and Britain.