Israel shows papers linking Iran to seized 'Hezbollah arms ship'


(Ha'aretz) The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday released documents and photos that it says proves Iran was behind the massive shipment of weapons intercepted last week in Mediterranean waters.

The seized ship was carrying 500 tons of weapons, which Israel said were en route from Iran to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. The ship had dozens of containers with Iranian markings on it.

On Wednesday, the military released what it said was a manifest stating that the ship originated in Isfahan, Iran. Another document showed contents that were allegedly handled by Islamic Republic of Iran's Shipping Lines.

Israel also showed what it says is a customs form stamped by Iranian Armed Forces.

Both Iran and Hezbollah have denied the Israeli claims.

Also on Wednesday, Iran urged Russia on Wednesday to deliver on an air-defense contract the two countries signed and ignore Israeli pressures for delaying the deal.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Moscow is under obligation to carry out the contract to provide S-300 missiles to Tehran. His remarks were carried by the semiofficial ILNA news agency on Wednesday.

"We have concluded a contract with Russia to buy S-300 missiles. We don't think it is appropriate for Russia to be seen in the world as an unreliable partner," Vahidi was quoted by the semiofficial ILNA news agency as saying.

Iranian and Russian officials have not disclosed the value of the deal, but Russian state media quoted military analysts as estimating that shelving the contract would cost Moscow about $1 billion in lost profits, plus $300-400 million in fines and penalties.

Israel fears that supplying S-300s to Iran would change the military balance in the Middle East and the issue has been the subject of intense speculation and diplomatic wrangling for months.

Israeli media have reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Moscow in September to discuss Russian arms sales to arch-foes Iran and Syria.

President Shimon Peres said in August that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev promised to reconsider the planned delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran.

Vahidi said Russia should ignore Israeli pressures and go ahead with the delivery.

"Russia has to fulfill the contract and not be influenced by Zionist pressures," ILNA quoted him as saying.

Tehran has been disappointed by what it perceives as Moscow stalling under Western pressure.

Senior Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who heads parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, recently warned that the delays in the S-300 could harm Russia-Iranian ties.

Russia and the U.S. are among six nations leading an effort to ensure Iran does not use what it maintains is a civilian nuclear program to develop an atomic bomb. But Moscow also has close ties with Iran and is helping build its first nuclear power plant, forcing Russia into a delicate balancing act.

Moscow has delivered other anti-aircraft systems to Tehran, such as the Tor-M1, which can hit aerial targets at up to 20,000 feet.



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