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The Israel Prisons Service parole board yesterday denied a request by former businessman and convicted traitor Nahum Manbar for his 16-year sentence to be reduced by a third.

Manbar was convicted of treason in 1998 for selling military equipment to Iran and found guilty of other security crimes, including helping the enemy in its war against Israel and passing information to the enemy with the intention of harming the state's security.

Approximately one month ago, prosecutors informed the parole board that the state is opposed to reducing Manbar's jail sentence for fear he will become a spy for Iran.

Israel's security and intelligence establishment, the Mossad and the Shin Bet, backed the state's opposition at the parole hearing. Manbar seriously and irreversibly damaged Israel's security, they said, noting he sold Iran equipment and information intended for use in building a mustard and nerve gas factory, probably for use against Israel.

The security agencies said they believed Iran significantly upgraded its non-conventional weapons capability with the aid given by Manbar.

"In light of Iranian intelligence's known methods, there is a serious concern it would take interest in Manbar were he released, to glean information and use him for Iran's objectives," a security source said.

The state prosecution argued that this fear and the impression that Manbar has no moral inhibitions to keep him from committing further offenses would make him an easy target for Iran to recruit as a spy.

Manbar, who was born on Kibbutz Givat Haim, near Hadera, fled Israel in the 1980s after being convicted of fraud. He closed several weapons deals with Iran while living in Poland and planned larger deals, like selling Soviet-made tanks to Iran, which never materialized.

The arms deals brought Manbar into contact with those responsible for Iran's missile and chemical weapons programs. After several meetings with them, primarily in Vienna, Manbar agreed to supply Iran with more than 120 tons of chemical material, which could be used to make chemical weapons. His deals with Iran are said to have made Manbar tens of millions of dollars.