Page last updated at 18:36 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Photos 'show Iran arms-ship link'

The Francop's manifest purportedly shows the weapons came from Iran

Israel has released documents and photographs which it says prove that a shipment of weapons it seized in the Mediterranean originated from Iran.

The photographs show containers bearing the logos of Islamic Republic of Iran's Shipping Lines (IRISL). Israel said the containers held 500 tonnes of arms.

Israel also released what it said was a customs form stamped by Iran's army.

Damascus and Tehran have both denied the weapons were headed for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, via Syria.

The Antiguan-flagged vessel, Francop, was boarded by Israeli navy personnel near Cyprus on 4 November. It was then taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod and its cargo impounded.

'No new weapons'

The Israeli military says that hidden among the dozens of other containers on board were 9,000 mortar rounds, 3,000 Katyusha rockets, 3,000 shells, 20,000 grenades and over half a million rounds of small arms ammunition.

Photograph released by Israel showing containers being lifted from the Francorp

On Wednesday, officials released what they said was a manifest stating that the shipment originated in the Iranian city of Isfahan.

Another document showed contents that were handled by Islamic Republic of Iran's Shipping Lines (IRISL), they said. One customs form was even purportedly stamped by the Iranian armed forces.

There were also photos of boxes of rockets labelled as "parts of bulldozers", while polyethylene pellets used to conceal the munitions were allegedly stamped with the details of Iran's National Petrochemical Company, including a telephone number.

The officials said the Francop contained the largest weapons' cache that Israel had seized, but that there was no new technology.

On Tuesday, Washington said the cache demonstrated that Iran was violating a UN arms embargo on Lebanon, imposed after the 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. The Francop had been destined for the Syrian port of Lattakia.

At the time, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki described Israel's seizure of the merchant ship as "official piracy in the name of inspection", and denied the contents were destined for Lebanon.

Iran and Syria are widely held to be the main sponsors of Hezbollah, which has also denied any connection to the shipment.

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