Israel Denies Supplying Weapons to Contra Forces in Central America

The Foreign Ministry today denied charges that Israel has supplied arms directly to the United States-backed rebel forces fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

The Ministry, in a statement issued after Nicarguan President Daniel Ortega asserted that Israel is training and arming the rebel Contra forces, said also that Israel has been making persistent efforts to restore diplomatic relations with Nicaragua broken by the government in Managua three years ago.

Ortega, in an exclusive interview with Haaretz published today, said that Israel was being manipulated by the United States to back the Contras operating from neighboring Honduras. He said that he had documented evidence of Israeli aid to the Contras, and promised to publicize some of the material.

ISRAEL’S SUPPORT OF SOMOZA CITED

According to Ortega, the Sandinista government’s dispute with Israel stems from its support of the regime of former dictator Anastasio Somoza, which was overthrown in 1979. In the wake of the outbreak of the Lebanon war in June, 1982, Managua severed ties with Jerusalem.

But Ortega said that the Lebanon war was not the real issue and instead cited Israel’s continued support of the pro-American regimes in Central America, support which was highlighted by the visit to Honduras of former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon in December, 1982, reports of which linked the visit to arms sales.

The Foreign Minister of Honduras, Dr. Edgardo Paz Barnica, now in Egypt, is due in Israel on a visit next week. Israeli officials hope he will repeat his promise, made in Cairo, to open Honduran Embassies in both Egypt and Israel.

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