Qatar denies seizing Iran arms ships (UPDATE)

Qatar denies seizing Iran arms ships (UPDATE)

Details added after sixth paragraph (the first version was posted at 13:00)

Qatar denied press reports that it had seized two Iranian boats carrying weapons in the Gulf amid mounting tensions in the strategic region, AFP reported with reference to the official QNA news agency.

"The reports about the seizure in territorial waters of two Iranian boats loaded with weapons are inaccurate," a Qatar interior ministry spokesman said.

On Sunday, broadcaster Al-Arabia had reported that the two Iranian boats were intercepted off the Al-Zubara coast, in the northeast of Qatar, and close to the country's territorial waters with Bahrain.

Sunni-ruled Bahrain, where Shiite-led protests broke out on February 14, accuses Shiite-led Iran of meddling in its affairs and elements of the Bahraini opposition of links with foreign powers.

Amid the widening pro-democracy protests in the Gulf region there has been speculation that the Shiite regime in Iran has been supporting Shiite opposition groups in Bahrain, especially after the Sunni royal family of Saudi Arabia sent 1,000 members of its National Guard to Bahrain.

Activists from Bahrain's Shiite majority have called for reform and greater rights from the Sunni dynasty of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

On March 21, Turkey has seized the cargo of an Iranian plane bound for Syria because the shipment violated U.N. sanctions.

Earlier, on March 17, diplomats unveiled the information that South Korea and Singapore have intercepted suspect nuclear and weapons materials bound for Iran that breach UN sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic.

The two seizures, made in the past six months but only revealed recently, add to a growing list of alleged Iranian attempts to breach an international arms embargo, which are bringing mounting pressure to tighten sanctions, they said.

On March 15, the Israeli navy seized a ship that was smuggling weapons allegedly destined for terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Later, on Match 16, Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi strongly refuted claims by Israel about interception of a ship carrying Iranian made weapons enroute to Gaza.

Iranian nuclear program has caused concern since 2003, when the IAEA became aware of its concealed activity. In late 2003, Iran signed the Additional Protocol to the NPT and voluntarily announced about the suspension of uranium enrichment. However, it returned to this activity. Iran insists that as a party to the NPT it has the full right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

The enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons. However, it is necessary as fuel for atomic power plants. Several countries, including the U.S., are sure that Iran strives to develop nuclear weapons and call for to prevent this development.

Until now, the UN Security Council adopted six resolutions, four of which are aimed at imposing sanctions against Iran, demanding to abandon uranium enrichment, and two resolutions containing warnings.

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