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rosco 357

Wed Nov 11, 7:56 AM

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel released documents and pictures on Wednesday which it said provided proof that a massive arms shipment seized at sea last week came from Iran.

Israeli commandos intercepted the Antigua-flagged "Francop" near the coast of Cyprus, claiming it was taking the weapons to Syria en route to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Israel immediately accused arch-foe Iran of sending the cargo, but on Wednesday offered for the first time evidence to back up the charges and detailed the extent of the cache.

"Hidden among the dozens of other containers on board, and disguised as civilian goods, the ship contained a consignment of 36 shipping containers with 500 tones of arms en route via Syria to the Hezbollah terrorist organisation in Lebanon," the army and foreign ministry said in a statement.

"A total of about 9,000 mortar bombs of different types were seized, along with about 3,000 Katyusha artillery rockets, 3,000 recoilless gun shells, 20,000 grenades and over half a million rounds of small arms ammunition," the statement said.

It was accompanied by photos showing the ship's manifest, containers bearing the logo of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and cargo with Iranian armed forces customs labels.

Among the weapons seized were 2,124 Iranian-made 107mm artillery rockets and thousands of AZ111-A2 fuses manufactured only in Iran, the statement said.

Pictures also showed boxes of rockets labelled as "parts of bulldozers," a suggestion of attempts to disguise the shipment.

Iran and Hezbollah have both denied any link to the ship.

Israel, which was hit by thousands of rockets fired by Hezbollah during the 2006 war in Lebanon, has said the captured ship proved Iran was helping Hezbollah to prepare for another round of fighting.

A UN Security Council resolution which brought an end to the 2006 war demanded the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon and imposed a ban on all arms exports to them.

Israel views Iran as its main strategic threat because of Tehran's support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militants, its leader's frequent predictions of the demise of the Jewish state and its nuclear programme.

Israel, which has the region's sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, believes Iran's programme is aimed at developing a bomb, a charge denied by Tehran.

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