Rabbi Accused Of Plotting Iran Arms Deal Denies Involvement
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A rabbi charged by the United States with involvment in a scheme to sell U.S. arms to Iran was quoted Sunday as saying he knew about the proposed deal but wasn’t involved in it.
″I’m just the money man. I have no connection with trade in weapons,″ Rabbi Yitzhak Hebroni was quoted as saying in the daily newspaper Hadashot.
Hebroni is head of a religious school in Jerusalem and treasurer of the Bazelet International Trading Co., which the U.S. government alleges tried tried to sell $800 million worth of U.S. arms in Israeli inventories to Iran.
Five Israelis - Hebroni; Bazelet owners Israel Eisenberg and his brother, Guri; a retired Israeli general, Avraham Bar-Am, and a man whose name has not been released - are among 17 people charged by the United States with involvement in five schemes to sell a total of more than $2 billion worth of American-made weapons to Iran.
The United States forbids the direct or indirect sale of U.S. weapons to the revolutionary Iranian government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Hebroni said in an interview on Israel radio that he ″knew about the deal but wasn’t involved in it.″ He said the Eisenbergs ″had no intention of smuggling arms. I’m absolutely certain they planned to get approval from everyone involved.″
Hadashot quoted Hebroni as saying in a separate interview, ″In the end no money came out of the deal.″ It paper quoted him as saying the Eisenbergs were ″patriots who love their country. They’ve never done anything to hurt the state.″
Bar-Am, now being held in a Bermuda jail in connection with the U.S. charge, has said senior Israeli defense officials knew of the proposed deal. The Israeli government has denied any knowledge or involvement in the plan.
According to the U.S. charges, the Eisenbergs sought to provide Iran with 3,750 TOW anti-tank missiles, 18 F-4 fighter planes, 46 Skyhawk fighter- bombers, five C-130 transport planes and more than 200 air-to-air missiles.
The Jerusalem Post quoted an unidentified private arms dealer Sunday as saying that Israeli authorities repeatedly warned private dealers to stay away from deals with Iran. It quoted him as saying the authorities ″told us in no uncertain terms, no deals with Iran. They said, ‘If you’re caught, nobody will back you up.’ ″
About 1,000 Israelis, including Bar-Am, have been licensed as private arms dealers.