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Iran denies buying ship from Israel firm
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) May 29, 2011

Iran's top trade official has denied that a public company in Iran, which does not recognise the Jewish state, bought a ship from an Israeli firm as claimed by Washington, local media said on Sunday.

"Based on the laws of the country, any kind of trade or economic transaction with the Zionist regime and its affiliated firms is against the law," the chairman of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines (ICCIM), Mohammad Nahavandian, was quoted as saying.

"The news regarding the activities of Zionist firms in regard to Iran is a new game which has surfaced in reaction to other nations welcoming establishing economic ties with Iran," Nahavandian said.

"Thus they (West powers) are naming some Zionist firms as engaged in doing business with Iran."

On May 24, the United States announced new sanctions against Iran, targeting foreign firms including the Israeli firm Ofer Brothers Group.

The firm is accused of selling a tanker for $8.6 million to Iranian shipping company Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) in September 2010 in violation of UN sanctions imposed on Tehran over its controversial nuclear programme.

Ofer Brothers Group has denied the allegation, and the Israeli authorities have opened an investigation.

Israeli public television reported late on Sunday that at least 10 Israeli-owned oil tankers had docked in Iranian ports over the past decade.

It cited information from the Equasis global merchant shipping database that vessels belonging to the Ofer group and its Singapore-based subsidiary Tanker Pacific had docked at Bandar Abbas and Kharg Island, used to export Iran's oil.

The Islamic republic does not recognise Israel's right to exist and its animosity has hardened under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has launched repeated tirades against the Jewish state.

Israel has also been indirectly implicated in an attempt by a Spanish company to illegally export to Tehran military helicopters purchased in the Jewish state. The transaction was foiled last week by the Spanish authorities.

The sale of such helicopters to Iran is banned under the United Nations sanctions. Iran has so far not reacted to this news.

According to Israel's Ometz organisation that works for better governance, "Ofer Brothers Group is far from being the only Israeli company" to do business with Iran, either directly or indirectly.

Ometz in a letter to the state comptroller and prosecutor general requested an inquiry into Israeli firms suspected of contravening the Iran boycott.

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