Nigeria: Iran intentions and Religious tensions questioned

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Following Nigeria’s take over U.N. Security Council presidency Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to visit the West African country in order to build alliances against stronger U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program.

Iran’s ambassador to Nigeria, Khosrow Rezazadeh on Thursday confirmed Ahmadinejad’s planned visit to the country.

In June, the U.N. put new sanctions in place against Iran over its nuclear program. Mr. Ahmadinejad who is scheduled to visit Nigeria after similar visits to Uganda and Zimbabwe responded to UN sanction by vowing retaliation, if Iran’s ships are searched over suspicions that the cargo may violate the new sanctions.

Among the new restrictions, the sanctions freeze assets of new organizations linked to Iran’s government, bans the nation from pursuing “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons” and bars it from investing in uranium mining.

According to reports, Nigeria’s U.N. Ambassador Joy Ogwu who is now head of the 15-member body rotating presidency of the United Nations’ Security Council will oversee the visit of Mr. Ahmadinejad.

However Nigeria’s religious violence, and not the visit of Mr. Ahmadinejad visit, has drawn criticism. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized Nigeria for taking over the Security Council presidency while religious violence continues to plague the nation.

“Nigeria’s own security and stability is put at risk by a culture of unchecked and unpunished sectarian violence that gives rise to divisiveness along religious lines and repeated reprisal attacks,” commission chairman Leonard Leo said in a statement.

“The country [Nigeria] has the ability to prosecute perpetrators of sectarian violence, but so far lacks political will and determination to actually do so,” Leo added.

Nigeria, a nation of 150 million, is split between the Christian-dominated south and predominantly Muslim north. Hundreds have died in central Nigeria this year alone. But Ms. Ogwu is tasked with leading mediation on any crisis during Nigeria’s month long tenure.

Reportedly, the bipartisan U.S. government commission asked other members of the Security Council to pressure Nigeria into addressing the violence.

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