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Israel PM blasts world 'hypocrisy over Iran arms ship'

M302 rockets found aboard the Klos C ship are displayed at an Israeli navy base in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat March 10, 2014. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

EILAT, Israel: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday lashed out at the world for its "hypocrisy" over Iran as he unveiled a shipment of arms allegedly dispatched to Gaza by Tehran.

 

Standing in front of a vast display of weapons seized last week from a vessel in the Red Sea, Netanyahu launched a blistering attack on the West over its apparent disregard for Iran's alleged attempts to supply advanced weapons to Palestinian militants. 

In a highly-publicised speech from Eilat port, where the weapons had been unloaded, Netanyahu said he had only heard a handful of "softly-worded condemnations of Iran" over its "murderous delivery" which came to light just days before EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made a landmark visit to Tehran. 

"We have been witness to the smiles and the handshakes between representatives of the West and the heads of the Iranian regime in Tehran, even as these missiles were being unloaded here in Eilat," he said.

There were some in the international community who did not want Israel to expose "the truth behind the false smiles of Iran," he said, dismissing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate, as nothing more than "a PR man."

"They want to continue perpetuating the illusion that Iran has changed direction. The facts that we are showing here, on this platform, show the complete opposite," he said.

Ahead of the speech, hoards of journalists and foreign military attaches were given free access to the weapons found on board the Panamanian-flagged Klos-C, including 40 long-range M-302 rockets, 181 122mm mortar shells and approximately 400,000 7.62-calibre rounds.

M-302 rockets have a range of 160 kilometres (100 miles), and if fired from Gaza could easily reach Tel Aviv, which lies just 60 kilometres to the north.

Also on display were sacks of cement under which the weapons were hidden.

 On the sacks, written in English, were the names "Fars and Khozestan Cement Co" and "Hormozgan Cement Company" - both names of firms based in Iran. 

Analysts have said the discovery of the ship was unlikely to change the West's limited rapprochement with Iran or its willingness to negotiate over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme. 

Netanyahu compared the international community's silence on the Iranian ship with its haste to condemn Israel over its construction of settlements on land seized during the 1967 Six Day War. 

"If we build a balcony in a neighbourhood of Jerusalem, we hear a chorus of vociferous condemnation of the state of Israel from the international community," he said.

Israel has said it has "solid and incriminating evidence" that Iran planned and executed the weapons shipment, but so far it has not made such evidence public. 

"The ship was organised by Iran, despatched by Iran, financed by Iran. The missiles were loaded by Iran, in Iran and as usual Iran denies these facts," Netanyahu said.

"Our intelligence services exposed the ship's wayward route and Iran's efforts to disguise it. They exposed the ship's deadly cargo and its intended destination," he said, noting that the US intelligence services had "verified all these facts."

Iran has flatly denied any involvement with the shipment, which Israel believes was destined for the radical Islamic Jihad, which operates out of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. 

World powers are currently engaged in talks with Iran to roll back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. Tehran has long insisted its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful.

But Israel, which believes Iran is still trying to build a military nuclear capability, has repeatedly insisted that the only thing Tehran has changed is its tactics.

"Just as Iran hid its deadly missiles in the belly of this ship, Iran is hiding its actions and its intentions in many of its key installations for developing nuclear weapons," he said.

"Before it's too late, the world must wake up from its illusion and prevent Iran from getting the capability to build a nuclear weapon."

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has refused to rule out the option of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza have denied any knowledge of the ship. 

 

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Summary

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday lashed out at the world for its "hypocrisy" over Iran as he unveiled a shipment of arms allegedly dispatched to Gaza by Tehran.

There were some in the international community who did not want Israel to expose "the truth behind the false smiles of Iran," he said, dismissing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate, as nothing more than "a PR man".

Israel has said it has "solid and incriminating evidence" that Iran planned and executed the weapons shipment, but so far it has not made such evidence public.

Iran has flatly denied any involvement with the shipment, which Israel believes was destined for the radical Islamic Jihad, which operates out of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Israel, which believes Iran is still trying to build a military nuclear capability, has repeatedly insisted that the only thing Tehran has changed is its tactics.


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