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By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Two Iranian businessmen working at a Dubai-based firm were linked to video surveillance devices sold to Sudan and used in unmanned drones in Darfur in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, a U.N. report said.
The 94-page report by the so-called U.N. "Panel of Experts," published on Friday, details arms violations by all parties in the Darfur conflict, which began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels revolted in 2003 after accusing Khartoum of neglecting Darfur.
A counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million from their homes. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people died, but Khartoum rejects that figure.
There is no suggestion in the panel's report that the government of Iran was involved in the sale of drones or surveillance technology to the Sudanese military. The panel first reported on Khartoum's use of drones in Darfur last year, calling it a "clear-cut violation of the embargo."
The latest report includes still photographs from video footage taken by drones over Darfur in May and June, showing that the Sudanese government continues to the ignore the ban.
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem reacted angrily to the panel's report, saying Khartoum "will demand that the Security Council terminate the panel's mandate."
"They are just representatives of Western intelligence agencies," he told Reuters. "We are fed up with this committee. Our position is a total rejection of this report."
The panel said the "unmanned aerial vehicles" used in Darfur were equipped with video surveillance technology ordered by a fictitious company based in the United Arab Emirates.
It does not say where the drones came from or who made them, though it does say the video surveillance technology originated in Britain and is "not used for civilian purposes."
For this reason, the panel said, the Iranian behind the sale of the video devices to Sudan had to know their ultimate purpose.
DARFUR POPULATION STILL VICTIMIZED
The panel investigated the video recorders' origin and determined that the real firm behind the sale is Millennium Product Company LLC, with a sales manager the report named as Mojtaba Sadegbi and managing director Saeid Mousaei, both Iranian nationals.
The report said the U.N. monitors visited the company in June. A few hours later Sadegbi and Mousaei left the country.
"The administrative assistant explained to the Panel that Mr. Sadegbi and Mr. Mousaei had left for vacation in their home country, the Islamic Republic of Iran," the report said. "They have apparently not returned to their offices since then."
According to the report, neither the company's main shareholder, a citizen of the UAE, nor the UAE government have replied to the panel's request for further information.
Iran's U.N. mission had no immediate comment.
The panel documents many other violations of the 2005 embargo against the transfer of military hardware to Darfur, a remote region of western Sudan that is roughly the size of France. Khartoum can import arms, but not for use in Darfur.
Much of the weaponry, ammunition and hardware in Darfur originated in China and the panel said it was "seeking the cooperation of China in order to determine where in the chain of ownership violations of the embargo are taking place."
The report said that troops, weapons, ammunition and vehicles have been illegally transferred to Darfur where the arms are used by rebels as well as government troops.
"The Darfurian population continues to be victimized by the effects of attacks and counter-attacks involving most of the armed movements that frequently lead to the disproportionate use of force by the Sudanese Armed Forces," the panel said.
It said those attacks "result in killings, injuries and displacements."
(Editing by Vicki Allen and Todd Eastham)

Reuters