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Iran denies sending weapons to Gaza

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks in front of the pictures of Iran's late leader Ayatolah Khomeini (L) and Iran's current Leader Ayatolah Khamenei during the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran on February 11, 2011. UPI/Maryam Rahmanian.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks in front of the pictures of Iran's late leader Ayatolah Khomeini (L) and Iran's current Leader Ayatolah Khamenei during the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran on February 11, 2011. UPI/Maryam Rahmanian. | License Photo

TEL AVIV, Israel, March 16 (UPI) -- Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi denied Israeli charges a ship seized by Israeli commandos carried 50 tons of Iranian weapons.

"Israel is a regime made of lie, making lies and fabrications," Salehi told the Iranian state news agency IRNA Wednesday.

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"The Zionist regime will drown in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, God willing, after the collapse of the Egyptian pharaoh," Salehi said, rejecting Israel's claims the weapons found aboard the ship headed for Gaza were from Iran.

After midnight Tuesday the Victoria, seized by Israeli commandos some 240 miles off Israel's shores, arrived at Ashdod where Israeli officials began dismantling the crates of weapons that had been registered as containing lentils and cotton, the army said.

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The army estimated some 50 tons of weapons were on board, including advanced missiles and mortar shells. Footage released by the army showed some of the missiles were labeled "Nasr," the Iranian word for missile.

At a briefing with reporters, navy commander Vice Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda said booklets found in Farsi explaining how to use the missiles were further proof the weapons originated in Iran.

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The shipment included two Chinese-made C-704 anti-ship missiles that could threaten Israeli strategic installations along, he said.

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Rocket launchers and radar devices are also believed to be among the seized weaponry, Ynetnews.com said.

The Victoria was loaded at the Syrian port of Latakia where two Iranian ships had docked two weeks ago, The Jerusalem Post quoted Ben-Yehuda as saying.

The Victoria was seized in the Mediterranean as it headed for the Egyptian port of Alexandria where the cargo was to have been unloaded and transported overland to the Gaza Strip, the army said.

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"This was not merely a smuggling attempt, but a clear attempt to arm the terror organizations and change the situation in the entire region," Ynetnews.com quoted the navy commander as saying.

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