COPENHAGEN — The Danish Sailors Union said Thursday that the United States may have shipped arms to Iran using Danish ships for transportation and Israel as a middle-man in a secret deal to free American hostages in Lebanon.
The union, which charged last month that Israeli weapons dealers were shipping U.S.-made military hardware to Iran, reported that Israeli authorities temporarily changed the name of a Danish ship that carried a cargo of ammunition from Israel to Iran in late October.
"There now seems to be a pattern in these strange shipments," said Henrik Berlau, deputy chairman of the union, indicating that the shipments may be linked to the pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad organization's release of three American hostages, the Rev. Lawrence M. Jenco, the Rev. Benjamin Weir and David P. Jacobsen, during the past 14 months.
At War With Iraq
The union said last month that it has evidence that Israeli dealers shipped 3,600 tons of weapons and other military gear to Iran, which is locked in a six-year war with Iraq. Berlau said it appeared that the U.S. weapons, spare parts and ammunition were shipped to Israel from the United States for forwarding to Iran.
Reagan Administration policy forbids the sale of arms and other military equipment to Iran, and the United States officially disapproves of such sales by other countries.
"It appears that the shipments this year have been carried out on the orders of the United States to win the release of hostages in Lebanon," Berlau said. "There is no doubt at all that the Israeli authorities per se have been involved in these shipments.
"No private sales can take place in Israel without the authorities knowing," he said.
The U.S. and Israeli governments had no comment.
Late October Shipment
A sailor from the Danish freighter Morso said his ship moved 26 containers of ammunition from the Israeli port of Eilat to the Iranian harbor complex at Bandar Abbas in late October.
"We all knew there was ammunition on board and that we would be traveling through the war zone," said the sailor who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
"Israeli harbor authorities told us to take off all markings that could show that we had been in Israel, including the markings on the food we had taken on and the weapons containers," the sailor said.
Israeli authorities ordered the ship's name to be temporarily changed to Solar and told the crew not to display red flags and lanterns, the international markings for vessels carrying explosive material, the sailor said.