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A daily chronicle of a rapidly changing continent.

Iran's African diplomacy backfires

Tehran sought African allies, but a shipment of arms alienated many.

Iran's efforts to win new friends and allies in Africa have backfired.

Senegal severed diplomatic ties with Iran today, accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to separatist rebels in its southern Casamance region who killed three Senegalese soldiers this week.

It was the latest of a spate of diplomatic upsets between Iran and West African nations over alleged arms smuggling that has damaged Tehran's search for trade partners on the continent.

"Senegal is outraged to note that Iranian weapons brought about the death of Senegalese soldiers. Consequently, Senegal has decided to severe its diplomatic ties with the republic of Iran, starting this day," a foreign ministry announcement on state TV said around midnight.

The statement linked the Iranian weapons to an attack on Sunday in Casamance, the latest in a string of such attacks by rebels in one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.

"The rebels of the Democratic Forces of Casamance used sophisticated weapons, which caused the deaths of the Senegalese soldiers," the statement said.

In December, Senegal recalled its ambassador to Iran, saying it was unhappy with explanations given by Tehran over a seizure of mortars and rockets in Nigeria in October. Gambia — the next destination for the arms — cut ties completely.

A Nigerian court charged an alleged member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and three Nigerians last November over it.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/iran/irans-african-diplomacy-backfires