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UN: BANNED SOMALI CHARCOAL EXPORTS PASS THROUGH IRAN

UNITED NATIONS, Banned charcoal exports from Somalia are thriving, generating millions of dollars a year for al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab extremists � and often passing through Iran to have their origins obscured, according to U.N. sanctions monitors.

Six years after the U.N. Security Council prohibited exports of prized Somali charcoal to try to choke off a money stream to al-Shabaab, an estimated three million bags of the commodity are making their way out of the Horn of Africa country each year, the monitors say in excerpts of a yet-unpublished report.

The main destinations are ports in Iran, where the charcoal � already falsely labeled as coming from Comoros, Ghana or Ivory Coast � is transferred from blue-green bags into white bags labeled "product of Iran," the report says. The bags are then loaded on Iranian-flagged ships and sent to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with certificates claiming Iran as the charcoal's country of origin.

Iran "has been a weak link in implementation" of the charcoal ban, the monitors said, adding that Tehran largely didn't cooperate with their investigation.

The monitors credited the UAE with seizing some Somali charcoal but said the Persian Gulf country didn't "substantively engage" with their questions about the shipments allegedly made through Iran.

Made from acacia trees, charcoal from Somalia is cherished in Gulf nations for the sweet aroma it lends to grilled meats and to tobacco burned in waterpipes.

It's also highly valued by the Somalia-based al-Shabaab, which effectively taxes the charcoal at checkpoints, according to the U.N. monitors tasked with assessing compliance with sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK