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PM: Ship proves Iran supports terror
Yaakov Katz and Tovah Lazzarof
PM Ship proves Irans s
A day after the IDF operation in which an Iranian arms shipment headed for Syria and allegedly intended for Hizbullah was captured some 100 nautical miles west of Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the international community concerning Iran's material support for terrorist organizations. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi updated the security cabinet on the ship's capture. "Iran is sending these weapons to terror organizations to harm Israeli cities and kill its citizens," Netanyahu said. "The time has come for the international community to exert real pressure on Iran to stop this criminal activity and to support Israel when it defends itself against these terrorists and their patrons." Regarding those who may doubt Iran's continual support for terrorist organizations, the prime minister said, "Whoever still needed decisive proof that Iran continues to send weapons to terrorist organizations, received it today in a very clear and unequivocal way." Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Ashdod Port, and warned that Iran would continue trying to smuggle weaponry to Hizbullah. "We will need to continue to invest [in] efforts to stop them," he said. Barak went on to commend Ashkenazi and Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom for the operation. This is another success in the incessant battle against the smuggling of arms and the military buildup by terrorist organizations who threaten Israel's security," he said. Although both Iran and Syria are denying involvement, President Shimon Peres said the whole world knew there was a huge gap between what Syria and Iran say and what they do. "The ship, probably hailing from Iran, was destined to reach Syria and Hizbullah. All sides involved deny [any connection] but the world is aware of the gap between what Syria and Iran say and how they actually act," Peres added. Syria and Iran were rogue states that broke every universal law, said Peres, adding that both Syria and Iran are supplying arms to terrorists. It was very clear, he said, that they were trying to bring about the collapse of peace in the Middle East. For this reason the capture of the ship was of fundamental significance, not only from a military standpoint but also from a political one. "You can't argue with facts," said Peres. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also hailed the Navy's seizure. "We all today praise the Navy and IDF over the seizure of the ship - it's not a controversial matter. There are issues over which there are no coalition and opposition," she said at a convention in the Knesset regarding the drought levy. "We are all partners in the people of Israel's war on terror - whether it's Hamas, Hizbullah or other supporters [of terror]. Well done." US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed Iran Wednesday while in Egypt, when she met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. "We discussed the threat that Iran poses to regional stability, including the nuclear file. As President Obama has said, it is time for the Iranian government to decide what kind of future it seeks," Clinton said. The US stressed that it remained "extremely concerned about Hizbullah's efforts to rearm in direct violation of various United Nations Security Council resolutions," following reports of the ship being seized. A State Department official emphasized that "Hizbullah continues to pose a significant threat to peace and security in Lebanon and the region," though he acknowledged that it was "unclear" what types of weapons had been found. "Iran was caught red handed again," said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. "This ship is just the tip of the iceberg." It was an example of Iran's efforts to destabilize the region and rearm "the player," that is happening at an ever-increasing pace, he said. Speaking on Tuesday, before he knew about the ship, Ayalon told journalists and diplomats at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "Everything bad that goes on in the Middle East starts in Iran, and the gateway of Iran to the Middle East is Syria." He added that Iran posed a global threat such as had not been seen since World War II. In Damascus, meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem denied that the cargo ship was carrying weapons from Iran, and implicitly called the Israeli naval forces "pirates." "Unfortunately there are official pirates disrupting the movement of goods between Iran and Syria," he told reporters on a visit to Teheran. "I stress, the ship was not carrying Iranian arms bound for Syria, nor was it carrying material for manufacturing weapons in Syria. It was carrying [commercial] goods from Syria to Iran." Lebanese MP Michel Aoun, who in 2006 became aligned with Hizbullah, remarked later on Wednesday that Lebanon would get its arms from China if not from Iran, adding that such weapons would be better suited to the "liberation of Palestine" than to the internal Lebanese conflict. Hilary Leila Krieger and Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report.
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