COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Israeli weapons dealers have shipped at least 3,600 tons of American-made weapons to Iran in violation of U.S. restrictions, the Danish Sailors Union said today.
Henrik Berlau, a spokesman for the union, said the Danish freighter Ilse TH carried four 900-ton shipments of weapons from the Israeli port of Eilat to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas between May and August.
'We have the documentation, the log and the testimony of the sailors on board. We have the exact dates. There is absolutely no doubt,' Berlau said.
He said the shipments were all made in large containers 'which had neither Arabic, Persian nor Hebrew characters on them.'
Israeli officials in Jerusalem could not be reached for comment.
Preben Moller Hansen, chairman of the sailor's union, said the group had been aware of the shipments for some time and was making them public in order to stop all Danish vessels from sailing in the upper Gulf region.
'We are here to ensure the safety of our members. They are not safe sailing in the gulf,' Hansen said.
'We have had this ship under heavy observation for six months but we have only been able to publish our findings now as the ship has only just returned to Denmark,' Hansen said. Previous disclosures of the shipments, he said, would have made the vessel and its eight Danish crewmen a prime target for Iraqi warplanes.
The union officials would not say what weapons were shipped or whether the containers had been opened, but said they were 'certain' the containers held American arms.
'Each time the ship was met in Bandar Abbas by a military man of the Iranian armed forces who confirmed that he was receiving arms but which he thought were coming from Yugoslavia,' Berlau said.
He added that four times the union was aware of, the Ilse TH had been carrying 64 containers of arms from Israel to Iran.
In 1980, then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon unintentionally disclosed that Israel had sold some $12 million worth of spare parts to Iran, including badly needed tires for American-made F-4 Phantom jets.
After U.S. objections, Israel said the sales had been stopped. Since then, Israel and Iran have repeatedly denied any arms transactions.
In April, retired Israeli Gen. Avraham Bar-Am was charged by U.S. officials with plotting to obtain $2 billion worth of highly sophisticated weapons, including F-4 jets and anti-tank missiles, for sale to Iran.
Iran has an arsenal of old American weapons bought during the reign of Shah Reza Pahlavi, which need spare parts and ammunition.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in its most recent arms yearbook that Iran is believed to receive covert deliveries of spare parts for its arsenal from Israel.