South Africa is supplying sea-skimming missiles, spare parts for Mirage jet fighters and other arms to Argentina for use against British forces in the Falklands, newspapers of the South African Argus chain claimed today, quoting unnamed sources in Cape Town.
They quoted the sources as saying the arms were packed in boxes marked "tractor spares" and loaded aboard a Uruguayan transport plane in a remote corner of Cape Town's D. F. Malan civilian airport.
The South African government initially refused to confirm or deny the report, but Defense Minister Magnus Malan, speaking in Parliament late tonight, denied that South Africa had supplied missiles or Mirage parts to Argentina, or to any other Latin American country, during the Falklands crisis.
Argus newspapers support the predominantly English-speaking opposition parties in South Africa, but are usuallly carefully factual in their news reporting.
South Africa has a number of French Mirage fighter-bombers of the type being deployed in the Falklands by the Argentine Air Force.
The missiles South Africa is said to be supplying to Argentina are Israeli-designed Gabriels, built under license by the South African government armaments corporation.
The missiles are called Scorpions in South Africa. They are sea-skimmers, like the French Exocet that sank the British destroyer, HMS Sheffield, on May 4. However, they are surface-to-surface missiles, not air-to-surface like the Exocet.
A British Embassy spokesman in Cape Town, John Hedley, said, "British public reaction will be one of anger" if the Argus report is confirmed.