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Craxi Denies Italian Connection to U.S.-Iran Deal, Orders Probe

November 13, 1986|DON A. SCHANCHE | Times Staff Writer

ROME — Prime Minister Bettino Craxi on Wednesday denied accusations of an Italian connection to secret American shipments of arms to Iran, and he ordered a detailed investigation of the charges.

Three left-wing parties, including the Communists and Radicals, charged that arms destined for Iran were loaded aboard Danish ships at the Italian port of Talamone as part of a secret U.S. arms deal with Iran aimed in part at securing the release of American hostages in Lebanon.

Craxi's office denied that Italy had any agreement with Washington, "tacit or otherwise," to assist in such an arms deal and pointed out that, on the contrary, Italy had been urged repeatedly by Washington to halt supplies of arms to Iran and Iraq.

No License Granted

Since June, 1984, when Italy agreed to the arms embargo urged by Washington, "no export license has been granted for any type of armament to the two warring countries," Craxi said in a statement issued by his office.

After the accusations Tuesday by leftist members of Parliament, the Communist Party newspaper L'Unita said in its Wednesday editions that it has confirmation of the reports from the director of the Danish Maritime Trade Union, Henrik Berlau. The newspaper quoted Berlau as saying that 5,000 tons of weapons, ammunition, spare parts for aircraft and other strategic material "was transported to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, touching on Talamone on the way."

The newspaper said that the small port of Talamone, on the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany, about 120 miles north of Rome, had been used in the past for illegal arms shipments to South Africa.

Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini also denied that Italy had violated the arms embargo. He said he will reply to the accusations in Parliament.

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