Diplomatic relations between Banjul and Tehran has broken down and all Iranian nationals representing the interest of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in The Gambia have been asked to leave The Gambia within forty-eight (48) hours, according to a statement from Gambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad wishes to hereby notify the general public that the Government of the Republic of The Gambia has taken the decision to sever all diplomatic, economic, political, and social ties with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran effective 22nd November 2010.”
In this regard, the Foreign Affairs Ministry stressed that all Government of the Republic of The Gambia projects and programmes which were being implemented in cooperation with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been cancelled with immediate effect.
“Consequently, all Iranian nationals representing the interest of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in The Gambia are being requested to leave The Gambia within forty-eight (48) hours from the effective date stipulated through a notification that is issued to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the statement said, adding that the general public is therefore keenly requested to take note.
Nigeria's Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia
However, there were no reports as to why diplomacy between the two countries came too soon to an end. The two nations have come under ardent media scrutiny of late, following the interception by Nigerian officials, of a shipment of arms from Iran destined to The Gambia.
This Day, an online publication in Nigeria reported last week that Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Odein Ajumogobia denies being pressurized by Western nations to report its seizure of arms shipment from Iran to the United Nations’s Security Council.
A France-based shipping company (CMA CGM), which transported the shipment said it was hidden in containers labeled ‘building materials’ and attempts where made to send them to Gambia before Nigerian police seize them, This Day reported on November 18, 2010.
Former alliesAccording to Aljazeera.net, both nations have been ostracised internationally, with Iran under sanctions for its nuclear programme and Gambia accused of rights abuses, the two nations have repeatedly declared their support for each other.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president said in 2006 that both nations were under pressure from "bullying" powers while Gambia has supported Iran's right to develop its nuclear capabilities.
Ahmadinejad paid a visit to the country in November 2009 to cement ties.
The two countries were mentioned in conjunction last week when Nigeria reported the discovery of an illegal arms shipment from Iran, including rockets and grenades, to the UN Security Council.
"Iran, under four sets of UN sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme including a ban on arms sales, said the shipment was by a private company and was on its way to a west African country, later named as Gambia," Aljazeera said on Monday.
Fingers at the US
On Tuesday 23 November 2010, the BBC reported on Focus on Africa that Mahmud Ahmadinejad accused the United States of putting pressure on The gambia Government to break ties with Iran.