Iran says British arms smuggling bust 'fake news'
Iran dismissed as "false" Friday a claim by the British and US navies that Iranian weapons had been seized from a smuggling boat apparently headed to Yemen.
The foreign ministry accused the Western allies of attempting to divert attention from their own arming of a Saudi-led coalition that has waged a devastating campaign against Yemen's Iran-backed rebels since 2015.
"The countries that have been the main perpetrators of war throughout history... are trying to mislead world public opinion by making false claims and promoting fake news," ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement.
"The countries that have caused the death of people and the destruction of Yemen by sending billions of dollars' worth of weapons to the aggressor coalition, cannot exonerate themselves by accusing others."
On Thursday, the British embassy in the United Arab Emirates announced that the Royal Navy had seized Iranian-made weapons from a smuggling vessel off the coast of Oman last week.
The small craft, travelling at "high speed" after dark in international waters, was initially spotted by US aerial surveillance, a statement by the embassy said.
The weapons retrieved included medium-range ballistic missile components as well Iranian versions of Russia's Kornet anti-tank missile, it added.
The seizure took place on February 23 along a route historically used to smuggle weapons to Yemen, according to the Bahrain-based United States Fifth Fleet.
"This is the seventh illegal weapon or drug interdiction in the last three months and yet another example of Iran's increasing malign maritime activity across the region," said US Vice-Admiral Brad Cooper.
In January, the US Navy said it had seized more than 2,000 assault rifles smuggled on a fishing boat along a maritime route from Iran to Yemen.
Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia, has accused it of providing military support to the Yemeni rebels, especially rockets and missile components, allegations Tehran denies.
The Yemen conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people directly or indirectly and left millions on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations which calls it the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Fighting has largely been on hold since a UN-brokered ceasefire took effect in April last year, even after the agreement expired in October.
The UN Security Council expanded an arms embargo on the Huthis in February 2022.