UN Security Council
UN Security Council AFP photo

The UN Security Council on Thursday slapped sanctions on two Iranian firms accused of supplying arms to the Syrian government, a UN statement said.

The two firms, Yas Air and the SAD Import Export Company, were added to a growing Iran sanctions list. Diplomats told AFP that Turkish authorities intercepted arms shipments organized by Yas Air to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that Yas Air and SAD were "significantly involved in Iranian arms smuggling."

The two firms were "responsible for shipping ammunition, assault rifles, machine guns, mortar shells and other arms from Iran to Syria," Rice said in a statement quoted by AFP.

The sanctions action orders an assets freeze against the firms and bans dealings with the companies.

The UN Security Council has ordered four rounds of increasingly tough sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Western nations say this is part of a drive for a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the charge.

Iran is also a key backer of the Syrian leader and the sanctions regime allows countries to inspect Iranian cargo deliveries to prevent weapons proliferation.

"We have long known that Iran smuggles weapons and provides military assistance to terrorists and extremist groups worldwide," said Rice.

"Iran has also repeatedly been caught providing weapons and military assistance to Syria, where the Assad regime has used them against Syrian civilians," she said.

Hundreds of Iranian soldiers from the elite “Unit 400” brigade have been fighting alongside Syrian government troops in the civil war against opposition forces hoping to topple Assad.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of the experienced officers to ensure that the Assad regime survives the threat to its survival.